Mobile Applications

China’s WeChat Exposes Debtors Via Social Media


A new Chinese app has been created specifically to shame people who don’t pay their bills.

The “deadbeat map” app with WeChat, which was developed by the People’s Court in Hebei, allegedly reveals all deadbeat debtors residing within 500 meters of a user’s phone.

“The app puts the debtors under the spotlight of their social circle, and it will help the court solve the problem of enforcement,” said court spokesperson Zhang Xuan, who added that the court “wants to take advantage of pressure from society and from people who know the debtors.”

Right now, the app works only for claims recognized by the Hebei court. And while tests by The Financial Times show it isn’t as powerful as its developer claims, the app does reveal the full name, a partially redacted ID number and a portion of the addresses of people who lost civil claims cases in Hebei Province courts.

“It oversteps the line between privacy and legal punishment,” warned Philip Liu of Peking University, an expert on China’s efforts to develop credit scoring. He believes the database should be available to court officials and police — not the general public.

Back in 2017, WeChat admitted that it provided information about its users to the government after an update revealed that all the private information of customers will be disclosed to authorities in China. In order to continue using the app, users had no choice but to accept the privacy policy, which stated that a significant amount of data would be shared with the government in order to comply with laws and regulations. Some of the data included contacts and anything searched online when using the app.

But the company downplayed the update, stating that “in case of criminal investigations, we will provide certain information to law enforcement agencies when legally compelled to do so, which is in line with international practices.”


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