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WeChat warns overseas users that personal data, browsing history being sent to China

Beijing, Sep 9 (IANS) Chinese social media platform WeChat is warning users outside China that their data will be stored on servers inside the country, RFA reported.

A number of overseas WeChat users received a notification on September 6, warning that “personal data (including) likes, comments, browsing and search history, content uploads, etc.” will be transmitted to China.

The notification also reminds users that their behaviour while using the app is subject to WeChat’s licensing agreement and privacy policy.

A YouTuber living in France who gave only the pseudonym Miss Crook said she was shocked to receive a French translation of the same message, RFA reported.

“I clicked through and … this message popped up, so I automatically clicked cancel,” she said. “It’s becoming clear what the difference is between a democracy and a dictatorship.”

She said the move would likely affect large numbers of Chinese nationals and emigres living overseas.

“Overseas Chinese have become very dependent on WeChat, but is it really that important?” she said. “We can actually stop using it completely, so we shouldn’t let them confuse us. It’s really not that important.”

Faced with mounting international concern over privacy protection, WeChat said in September 2021 that it had “separated” its data storage facilities for domestic and international users, asking overseas users to re-sign the terms and conditions to keep using the app, which many people rely on to send money to people in China, make purchases in Chinese yuan, and stay in touch with friends and family.

Former Sina Weibo censor Liu Lipeng said the move was largely a cosmetic one, however, RFA reported.

“Last year … WeChat re-signed its agreements with all overseas users, but everything on there except for one-to-one chats have to use WeChat protocols,” Liu said. “So the moment you click OK, you are back in (the Chinese version) again.”

“Everything you write is still available (to the Chinese authorities), so it’s basically sleight of hand. Nothing has changed,” he said. “You are a still a WeChat user.”

US-based legal scholar Teng Biao said WeChat’s parent company Tencent is already required under China’s Cybersecurity Law to assist the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with any data it says it needs, as are all of the other internet service providers and social media platforms in China, RFA reported.

–IANS

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