Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Chinese Social Media App Poses a Threat to Activists and Authorities Alike

BY Julia Wetherell | Thursday, December 13 2012

Image from WeChat app homepage

The most popular new social media app in China is raising suspicions over its geolocational abilities. WeChat, a phone app that combines the functions of Skype, Twitter, and Facebook with the power to locate nearby users, has ousted traditional texting as a contact method for many young people in China. But as the Guardian reported last week, a technology that tracks its users’ movements can be dangerous:

As WeChat grows…politicians and dissidents are voicing concerns: activists fear that the app's voice-messaging service enables security officials to monitor users' movements in real time. And when the app was launched in Taiwan in October, legislators said they feared that it posed a threat to national security, through the potential exposure of private communications.

Techinasia reports that the government in mainland China has voiced public suspicion as well, with the state-run media running the story of a murder committed when a young woman was located by her WeChat profile. Yet Chinese dissidents have claimed that the police have been able to quote personal WeChat correspondence verbatim in interrogations, and that the app enables the authorities to track their movements with greater efficiency. In a South China Morning Post article from November, Tencent, WeChat’s parent company, commented that while they take “user data protection seriously … like other international peers, we comply with relevant laws in the countries where we have operations.”

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

First POST: Creeping

Senator Al Franken's tough questions for Uber's CEO; how the NSA could make its phone metadata program permanent; global privacy groups launch a personal spyware catcher called Detekt; and much, much more. GO

Recreation.gov and other Govt Projects Move Toward Embracing New Digital Approach

A draft request for proposals for the revamping of Recreation.gov will include a requirement that reservation availability data be publicly accessible and that all proposals detail how they will enable third-party sales, as two members of the United States Digital Services have joined the government team overseeing the RFP, meeting some key demands of civic technologists and consumer oriented technology companies. GO

wednesday >

First POST: Ubermenschens

Surge-pricing in effect for Uber privacy violations; why "privacy" policies should be called "data usage" policies; pols silent on Uber mess; and much, much more. GO

tuesday >

First POST: Uber Falles

Uber exposed for plan to dig up dirt on journalist critics; sneaking a SOPA provision into the USA Freedom Act; high-speed free WiFi coming to NYC; and much, much more. GO

monday >

First POST: Differences

How to use Twitter to circumvent campaign coordination rules; the net neutrality debate keeps getting hotter; charting the gender balance at dataviz conference using dataviz; and much, much more. GO

friday >

First POST: Security Insecurity

New data on Americans attitudes toward government and private surveillance; how artists are responding to the surveillance state; redesigning New York state's official web presence; and much, much more. GO

More