Weixin (WeChat) is Chinese tech giant Tencent‘s popular group messaging app (similar to WhatsApp or Kaokao Talk). But with great popularity, comes great criticism, or something. Because as Tech in Asia reports, pretty much everyone is pissed off with Weixin.
Dissidents have criticised the app for allowing the security forces to spy on its 200 million users’ messages with impunity. The Guardian reports:
Hu Jia, a human rights activist jailed for three years on a charge of sedition, suspects that voicemail messages to his friends had been listened to by guobao officials (internal security bureau).
“I took a chance and assumed WeChat was relatively safe,” he said. “It’s a new product and not developed by China Mobile or China Unicom, [two of China’s main telecoms companies], which have been monitoring my calls and text messages for over 10 years. But the guobao surprised me with their ability to repeat my words or voice messages verbatim, though I’m sure I only sent them to some friends through WeChat.”
Not only is Weixin seen as a threat to critics of the Chinese regime however, it is increasingly being seen as a threat to the regime. Tech in Asia:
Chinese authorities see the service as something of a threat as well. On Sunday evening, state-run broadcaster CCTV ran a feature piece about the dangers of WeChat, focusing primarily on how its anonymity and location-reporting features can give criminals an easy in. For example, the report told the story of Xu Xiaohong, a single woman who was ultimately ambushed and murdered when a man she met on WeChat attempted to rob her. He knew where she was, and when she was going to be there, because of WeChat.
Tencent have previously rebuked privacy fears over Weixin, telling the South China Morning Post last month:
We have taken user data protection seriously in our product development and daily operations, and at the same time, like other international peers, we comply with relevant laws in the countries where we have operations.
Anyone who knows anything about the Chinese security state can see that the above statement is practically meaningless. As Hu Jia himself pointed out, “any big players in China regardless of industry that don’t cooperate with the government, even if it means being complicit in crimes, won’t be in business for long.”