A new report suggests that various popular Chinese apps – including WeChat, Weibo and Didi Chuxing – are collecting user data from people that utilize these apps excessively. The China Consumer Association, a consumer rights association that oversees Chinese products and consumer issues, is further investigating over 90 popular apps which are said to be ‘over-collecting’ user data. The matter was reported by Sixth Tone.
The list of apps include popular services in China, spanning instant messaging, social media and other services. The infringing apps either failed to inform users when data was being collected, or were collecting data that was not obviously needed for the service or function being provided by that app. Additionally, terms and conditions would involve users signing over permission to share that data with non-essential third-party companies.
“We found that many apps are collecting user data that’s not relevant to their primary function, or they fail to inform users when collecting and using such data — that’s what we mean by ‘over-collecting,’” said Pi Xiaolin, director of the association’s Department of Market Service Supervision in a quote to Sixth Tone. “For example, a photo-editing app has no right to ask its users for their location, ID number, or fingerprints.”
Most of these companies collect this data for commercial purposes, since data can later be compiled and monetized effectively. Further, additional data would also help these apps in creating user ‘profiles’ and understanding how to advertise other services to further boost revenue. While customers are undoubtedly handing over these permissions and legally agreeing to share this data, the way it is collected and language used tends to be shady. Matters such as this will only serve to further erode user confidence in these apps and their ability to respect users’ privacy.