Will WeChat Present a Risk to Users?

Screen Shot of WeChat
Screen Shot of WeChat

China’s domestically developed chat application WeChat has grown in popularity since its launch last year. Not only do Mainland Chinese love to use it, its use has also expanded to Taiwan, the United States and the United Kingdom.

However, according to the British Guardian, China’s well-known dissident Hu Jia recently said that he suspected China’s authorities monitored his whereabouts through WeChat, because every time he sent a message via WeChat, the state security units could accurately cite its contents.

QQ Tencent WeChat

Screenshot of WeChat.

The dialogues were fully monitored by state security units

WeChat was developed by China’s Tencent, Inc. Its properties are similar to the popular US WhatsApp application, but it has broader functions. WeChat not only has a short message service (SMS), it also has community media Twitter-, Facebook- and Skype-like functions, as well as currently offering services in eight languages.

WeChat’s popularity has surged since its launch last year. It is alleged that the number of people using WeChat now exceeds 200 million.

QQ Tencent WeChat

Screenshot of QQ, another Tencent program.

However, with the rapid growth of WeChat’s user numbers, dissidents and politicians have begun to worry that its voice message function might be allowing security personnel to monitor the users’ actions.

When WeChat was launched in October in Taiwan, some even worried that some important information could be inadvertently exposed through private conversations using WeChat and the nation’s security could thus be threatened.

Hu Jia QQ Tencent WeChat human rights

Hu Jia, Chinese Activist. (Voice of America/Wikipedia.org)

Hu Jia said that he suspected his voice messages sent to friends were monitored by state security (Bureau of Internal Security, Ministry of Public Security). “I took the risk of using a micro-channel because I thought it was relatively safe and a new product.

Because China Mobile and China Unicom telecom companies have monitored my phone for more than a decade, I now use WeChat, but state security could accurately repeat my words and voice information, which really shocked me. I’m sure that I only sent those words to my friends through WeChat.”

QQ Tencent WeChat

Screen Shot of WeChat

Tencent, Inc, which is the largest Internet company in China, had no comment on the Guardian report. But Tencent, Inc told the South China Morning Post in November: “During product development and daily operations, we have been serious about protecting users’ information. Nonetheless, just like our international peers, we obey the relevant laws of each country.”

Translated by Joseph Wu

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