Tencent WeChat denies storing users’ chat logs

By Wang Yi Source:Global Times Published: 2019/1/10 18:58:40

Photo: VCG

Tencent's WeChat has denied storing users' chat history after its 2018 data report raised privacy concerns, with China's largest social networking site saying that none of the information mentioned in the report affected users' privacy and chat logs were only stored on end devices.

All data in WeChat's annual data report was anonymized and deprivatized, and none of it involves the private information of specific users, the internet giant said.

WeChat released the 2018 WeChat Data Report in a 2019 WeChat Open Class in Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong Province, on Wednesday, showing the growth of users' communication and their changing preferences in 2018.

The presence of some users' chat logs in the report raised questions about whether WeChat peeps into its users.

For example, some netizens wondered how it is that if WeChat does not store and read chat content, it can still count emoji use times.

In response, Tencent told the Global Times on Thursday that the company always respects and protects users' privacy. The data in the report doesn't affect any users' privacy, it said.

Technically, Tencent is capable of viewing or even modifying content that is temporarily stored on servers during transmission, but that doesn't equate to a privacy breach unless the data is further processed, leaked or sold, analysts said.

Analysis of user behavior based on big data is not an infringement of the privacy of specific users, Fu Liang, a Beijing-based telecom industry expert, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Tencent will not transfer users' personal information to a third party without prior permission, according to WeChat privacy protection guidelines.

"We will use various security measures at a safe level to ensure information security. For example, we use encryption such as Secure Socket Layer, anonymization, and other means to protect your personal information," the guidelines read.

In the response, Tencent said the data mentioned in the annual report is generic data rather than the data of individuals. The company said that it strictly complies with private information protection laws and regulations.

The demand for privacy has been increasing in China as cases involving leaks are exposed. From January 2016 to September 2018, a total of 3,719 cases of infringement of personal information were prosecuted.

China's Personal Information Security Specification Law took effect in May 2018.

The protection of personal information cannot solely rely on legislation, which always lags behind market developments. It depends on collective efforts of individuals, companies and the regulators, Wang Zhengzhi, senior partner at Globe-Law, told the Global Times.

The general awareness of privacy among Chinese people is not strong enough, and the disclosure of personal information in the internet age could have serious consequences and even impact social order. Therefore, enterprises that store a large amount of personal information must strengthen management, Wang added.


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