Over at our China Law Blog Linkedin Group (please join up if you are not already a member!), someone asked about the legality of using a hardware/software devise to capture data which is then sent to a central server over the internet. The person who posed this question then went on to ask which Chinese government department would be responsible for approving something like this.
I answered the question by noting the importance of how one approaches the Chinese government on anything.
Be very careful. We have researched this issue multiple times for multiple clients and what you are describing could very well be illegal in both China and it also could be illegal to export from your own country. There is not likely any one “department responsible for approval.” What you are talking about could implicate privacy rights in China, among other things. It also is generally not a good idea to go to the Chinese government to ask an open-ended question because that greatly increases your odds of getting an answer you do not want to hear. Instead, you should go with them only after having completed ALL of your research. You then go to them and say that you see what you are doing as legal because of X, Y, and Z (all of which you show to them) and you just wanted to make sure that they did not see things any differently.
I probably also should have mentioned that China generally requires that all data collected in China stay in China, but I did not want to get too much into the technicalities of the question because it is so complicated — I know this because a couple of our China lawyers seem to spend about half their time dealing with just this sort of internet issue.
I also should have mentioned that ideally you want a native (preferably licensed) Chinese lawyer to make this approach.
Anyway, the above does nicely set out how to deal with the Chinese government in this sort of situation.
Anyone else have more tips for when and how to approach the Chinese government for assistance on questions of legality?