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Your private data isn't so private after all, Wechat confirms

All this considered, this is about par for cyber information control in most parts of the world. (Source: The Verge)
All this considered, this is about par for cyber information control in most parts of the world. (Source: The Verge)
It's been a good week for privacy intrusions, with GO Keyboard being reported to siphon user data. This time out, it's the Wechat app on all the headlines, as the app's new privacy policy sheds light on how public, private user data actually is.

Wechat, owned by Tencent, is considered the most popular Chinese messaging app, with a grip on the market that has only become stronger after the restriction on Whatsapp a few months ago. The company recently updated its privacy policies, with acceptance mandatory for receiving the new app update.

Here are the relevant sections of the updated privacy policy:

  • By using WeChat, you agree that we may collect, use and share your Information in accordance with this Privacy Policy, as revised from time to time.
  • This Privacy Policy applies to WeChat, including any services associated with WeChat that incorporates this Privacy Policy by reference (for example, the WeChat Official Account Admin Platform). Those WeChat-related services may have further privacy-related terms that you must agree to as part of your use of those services.
  • We may also use your Information for the purpose of sending you direct marketing (whether by messaging within our services, by email or by other means) that offer or advertise our products and services and/or the products and services of selected third parties
  • We and our affiliate companies may share your Personal Information within our group of companies and with joint venture partners and third party service providers, contractors and agents (such as communication service providers who send emails or push notifications on our behalf, and mapping services providers who assist us and you with location data)
  • In addition, we allow third party marketing partners (such as WeChat official accounts, analytics providers and advertising partners) to collect your Personal Information over time and across different websites or online services when you use WeChat

And the most interesting part:

We will generally only retain your Personal Information for so long as is necessary to fulfill the purposes for which it was collected, as set out under the "How We Use Your Information" section above. However, in the following circumstances, we may be required to retain, preserve or disclose your Personal Information for a longer period of time:

  • in order to comply with applicable laws or regulations;
  • in order to comply with a court order, subpoena or other legal processes;
  • in response to a request by a government authority, law enforcement agency or similar body (whether situated in your jurisdiction or elsewhere);
  • where we believe it is reasonably necessary to comply with applicable laws or regulations

The Chinese government's take on information control is no secret, as the authorities recently pulled a number of VPNs off the app store, and forced citizens to install spyware. The government also cracked down on information spread on Wechat groups a few weeks ago, arresting citizens for objectionable messages sent on the app.

As appalling as this sounds, it's almost easy to forget that western companies also have similar policies, with companies like Facebook being notorious for their not-quite-upright stance on user privacy. It's just a case of identifying the lesser evil, we suppose.


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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2017 09 > Your private data isn't so private after all, Wechat confirms
Ricci Rox, 2017-09-24 (Update: 2017-09-24)