Internet users in China are showing more interest in privacy -- but is WeChat too big to escape from?
Data concerns prompt some users to try to quit China’s most pervasive app
Take WeChat as an example. Worries over how far WeChat will go to protect personal privacy is driving a small group of people to use the app less -- or even delete it altogether.
Unlike apps such as iMessage or WhatsApp, WeChat doesn’t use end-to-end encryption. That means anyone with access to WeChat’s servers can snoop on private messages before they’re deleted.
That’s exactly what worries these WeChat boycotters, who represent a growing voice in China calling for more data protection. But without any change from Tencent, it’s proven difficult for individuals taking matters into their own hands.
For every person who’s taken to deleting WeChat, many others can’t live without China’s essential app. Friends, families and colleagues communicate on it. Restaurants and stores take payment from the app. Even some government departments accept it as a form of ID.
One former boycotter who moved to the US told the SCMP he’s now back on WeChat -- because that’s the only way his family in China knows how to reach him. Another user concedes there are simply too many apps that might be secretly collecting data.
And it doesn’t just affect people living inside China. For people living elsewhere who don’t need to pay for lunch with WeChat Pay, some keep the app simply to stay connected with acquaintances and business contacts in China. With email highly unpopular and WhatsApp frequently disrupted, WeChat has become the go-to channel for both work and personal communication.
As technology becomes more useful, it becomes more embedded in our lives -- making it all the harder to step away, even when you really want to.