Warning: *privacy not included with this product
Review date: Sept. 8, 2021
WeChat is a hugely popular social media and messaging app owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent. And when we say popular, we mean it’s one of the most downloaded apps in the world, with over a billion active users. It’s also one of the least private messaging apps we've come across. It offers all the features -- text chat, video and voice chat, location sharing, stickers, games, WeChat Pay, and even ways to exercise with your friends. Which is great. Just don't expect anything you do on WeChat to be private.
What could happen if something goes wrong?
Ding! Ding! Ding! WeChat earns our *Privacy Not Included warning label for good reason. WeChat isn't just bad at privacy, it's scary. Where to start? The lack of end-to-end encryption? Not a deal breaker, but not great.The leak of hundreds of millions of private chat logs? Definitely bad! The reported recent banning of LGBTQ friendly and feminist accounts? Yikes! The alleged foreign surveillance and censorship. Terrible! Yes, WeChat has a huge billion+ user base. Yes, it’s very popular and feature rich. But none of that outweighs WeChat's bad track record on privacy and security. The bottom line: we feel the only way to protect your privacy when using WeChat, is to never use WeChat. *Privacy is absolutely not included.
Can it snoop on me?
What can be used to sign up?
Optional Facebook sign up is available.
What data does the company collect?
Name, user alias, mobile phone number, password, gender, IP address, detailed location data (from GPS, IP address, compass, accelerometer, or public posts that contain location information). Optional: Emergency Contacts, Managed Devices, Email address, Facebook Connect OpenID, Facebook Connect Token, Facebook Username, QQ ID, and if you opt in: credit card number, facial mapping/detection, and/or Sign in with Apple. Any information that you include in your publicly-visible WeChat profile, which may include your profile ID, name, and photo.
All of the information you make available to other users via WeChat. Content of communications between you and another user or group of users. Your on-device contact list. Web search terms used, social media profiles visited, and details of other information and content accessed or requested by you in using WeChat.
How does the company use this data?
How can you control your data?
What is the company’s known track record of protecting users’ data?
WeChat allegedly censors private conversations automatically in real life, for both Chinese and non-Chinese users. In March 2019, a database of 364 million records of users from China was discovered on the Internet. Each record, drawn from apps like WeChat and QQ, also contained personally identifying Chinese citizen ID numbers, photos, addresses, GPS location data, and info on the type of device being used. The database also sent data back to 17 remote servers in different provinces in China. There is a suspicion that the data gets distributed among police stations. WeChat also reportedly shut down hundreds of LGBTQ+ friendly accounts in July 2021.
Can this product be used offline?
User-friendly privacy information?
Links to privacy information
Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards?
Uses encryption but no end-to-end encryption
Password is needed to set up an account. Password must be 8-16 characters and contain both numbers and letters/special characters.
Since its launch in 2011, over 100 updates.
Tencent operates a security response center.
WeChat runs a WeChat AI hub, which openly focuses on such applications as Speech and Audio recognition, Natural Language Processing, face recognition, content understanding, etc. A major concern is that this AI enables censorship, blocking links, images, topics or audio.
Is this AI untrustworthy?
What kind of decisions does the AI make about you or for you?
Is the company transparent about how the AI works?
Does the user have control over the AI features?
Red Vs are after China’s queer communityProtocol
TikTok, WeChat & Co: How does spyware get into smartphones?DW
Tencent's WeChat suspends new user registration for security complianceReuters
How WeChat censors private conversations, automatically in real timeTechnology Review
Out in the World: China's WeChat shuts down LGBTQ accountsBayAreaReporter
LGBTQ activists give voice to China's censored WeChat groupsNikkei Asia
Chinese censorship invades the U.S. via WeChatWashington Post
Security in the Face of CensorshipMIT
Outrage over shutdown of LGBTQ WeChat accounts in ChinaThe Guardian
Hundreds of millions of Chinese chat logs leak onlineFinancial Times
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