WeChat, one of the biggest Chinese messaging apps is being monitored by The Citizen Lab. In a study, researchers found that WeChat is spying on the chats of Chinese users but also looking in on chats from foreigners with the goal of feeding its censorship algorithms.
We all know that Censorship in China is a common thing. However, the recent study shows that WeChat has been monitoring all of the chats of Chinese users as they come through.
However, the study found that images and documents shared between users outside of China are scanned and flagged for potentially politically sensitive content. Anything that matches is hashed and flagged when someone shares them with a Chinese account. The flagged content is fed to a machine-learning system that is used to censor content in China.
Well, it’s a major concern for all the WeChat users, especially those who don’t belong to China. However, the biggest problem is that WeChat didn’t disclose that any of this spying on foreign users is happening. If this wasn’t disclosed by The Citizen Lab, WeChat users would have no idea that their conversations were being monitored with the purpose of feeding the company’s censorship algorithm.
Any app which is to be hosted on Google Play Store and Apple App Store requires to disclose what information they’re collecting from users. And it seems like WeChat didn’t share anything related to information collection with Google or Apple. Now, it would be interesting to see how Google and Apple respond to these findings and if either company takes action against WeChat or not.