WeChat will now disclose user information to the Chinese government on request

WeChat, a messaging app, in a statement has said that it will now disclose private user information to governing authorities, if they requests it.

Representational image. Reuters.

Representational image. Reuters.

The move comes weeks after China banned the use of virtual private networks (VPN) in the country. Commonly known as the Great Firewall of China, this legislative course involving heavy censorship of the internet has received criticism from the local public as well.

In its ‘How We Use Your Information’, WeChat's privacy policy now clearly states that it will give information ‘in response to a request by a government authority, law enforcement agency, or similar body’.

This personal information can be as sensitive as contact information, credit card details, biometric information, location details through IP address and information searched for while using WeChat.

Earlier this year, various Chinese social media platforms like WeChat, Baidu Teiba, Weibo had come under the Chinese scanner for alleged violation of cybersecurity laws.

When it comes to competition between messaging apps in China, WhatsApp might very well be on the back foot. A service outage following the death of Chinese Nobel Peace laureate and dissident Liu Xiabo sparked fears that the service might be blocked in the country. Such service disruptions are clearly beneficial to rivals. Other reports from July indicated that China was placing messaging apps under the scanner for not taking sufficient steps to censor content. If a messaging to service is to survive in China, it must comply with Chinese laws, whether palatable or not.

If WhatsApp does see a disruption in usage, WeChat may swoop in to increase its user base in China.

With the ban on VPNs and tightening of grip over internet rules, even Apple had removed VPNs from its Chinese App Store. The Cupertino based company received backlash for its move.

As a result of the VPN ban, Chinese web users without VPNs cannot see the most popular global websites including Google and social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, as well as those of news outlets and human rights groups.


Updated Date: Sep 16, 2017 10:36 AM