Safety and Security

WeChat Shares Consumer Data With Chinese Government

WeChat, the Chinese messaging app owned by Tencent, confirms it provides information about users to the Chinese government.

According to a news report, the company has released an update informing users that all the private information of customers will be disclosed to authorities in China. With more than 662 million users, WeChat is the leading app in the country and one of the largest around the globe.

In order to continue using the app, users must accept the privacy policy, which now states that a significant amount of data will be shared with the government in order to comply with laws and regulations. Some of the stored data includes contacts and anything searched online when using the app, noted the report.

In recent months, the government of China has been cracking down on internet usage by foreign tech companies that operate in the country. These rules and regulations prompted Apple to remove VPN apps from its China store in July. Virtual private networks (VPNs) could enable users to access China’s uncensored internet.

The Associated Press cited companies that create the apps, many of whom complained that their programs had been removed from the Chinese version of the Apple App Store. ExpressVPN, one of the companies recently kicked out of the App Store, received a message from the company – which it posted on its corporate site – saying that their offering was not legal in China. And it wasn’t the only company to receive such a message: ExpressVPN told the AP that all main VPN apps in China had been removed.

In a statement, Apple noted China had begun requiring VPN app developers to have a license, which is why it needed to remove the apps. The new regulation came into effect earlier this year.

 

Tencent recently gave an official response to this report:

WeChat and Weixin consider user privacy and data protection not just a regulatory obligation but also a key part of the user experience. Weixin has recently updated its privacy policy to reflect the enhancement of user privacy and data protection laws in China.

Unfortunately, this fundamentally pro-privacy update was misinterpreted as an admission that we send all user data to the Chinese government. This is not and has never been the case. Our server to user messages are encrypted. 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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