What’s Chinese for Panopticon – “WeChat?”

Date: 29 Jun 2019 Category : | Source: WeChat App – The Chinese Wunder-App With a Catch | Author: Graham Penrose

YouTube has 1.6 billion and WhatsApp 1.5 billion worldwide active users with the exception of China where one single social service, WeChat, rules supreme. The WeChat app has arguably a more powerful position in Asia than Facebook has in the rest of the world. Facebook, Twitter, Google, Youtube, WhatsApp all being heavily censored in China has given WeChat the leg-up. The Chinese have no option but to use the app. In Q3 2018 the app, operated by Tencent, had nearly 1.1 billion monthly active users.

The Messenger element when released in 2011 was similar then to ICQ. Today it resembles WhatsApp. It was initially designed for the Asian region only. The tipping point for WeChat came when voice messaging was launched allowing a convenient way of communication compared to the hassle of typing Chinese characters. By 2015 it was used by approximately 76% of the Chinese population. Originally only available in Chinese the messenger now supports most common languages.

WeChat Offers Solutions for Most Areas of Life

WeChat not only offers communications but a vast array of added value to its users. WeChat offers countless functions suitable for everyday use including telephoning, sending (voice) messages, posting pictures, renting a bicycle, booking trips, buying a cinema ticket, booking a table in your favourite restaurant, looking for the latest offers, arranging a doctor’s appointment and much more – all within one single app.

It also offers service providers the opportunity to strengthen their customer’s loyalty with mini-programs. It is even possible to provide a customer service function within the WeChat-app.

Data Protection – What’s That?

BUT. Data protection and privacy are non-existent on the app.

In a review of popular messaging apps by Amnesty International, based on data protection compliance and consumer privacy protections, the app came in last with “null point”. That is clearly a damning indictment especially when privacy bad-boy Facebook came first with 73/100.

Mass Surveillance & Social Profiling

The WeChat parent comapny Tencent collaborates with the Chinese government for mass surveillance purposes. They share users’ personal information which informs the notorious Social Credit System rolled out by the Chinese regime.

The current “privacy” policy states:

“We share your information with selected recipients who have a legal basis and valid jurisdiction to request such data. These categories of recipients include government, public, regulatory, judicial and law enforcement bodies or authorities. We share your Personal Information within our group of companies.”

“I Care About Privacy … But Not That Much”

In China where all competing messenger services from the US are banned, citizens have no choice but to agree to the privacy policy. The utter lack of privacy means that it is unlikely to catch on elsewhere. But so many people feel “I have nothing to hide”. Unbelievebale convenience has replaced data protection worries in consumers’ minds time and again.

While all the usual suspects get all bent out of shape over the erosion of privacy in the West it turns out that the person on the street, to a great extent, relly does not seem to care.

Privacy should always be a top priority. Even if you DO think that you have got nothing to hide. You should always be the only one in charge of your data. You should always be the one to decide with whom, and when, and if, you want to share your data.

Otherwise, you, don’t own you.

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