Retrieved Deleted Data from WeChat by Communist Party Watchdog Raises Privacy Concerns in China

Privacy concerns in China erupted after one of the anti-graft watchdogs of the Chinese communist party claimed that messages that had been deleted from the WeChat account of a suspect had been recovered by them.

However, there has been a denial of the allegations of storing by chat histories of users by Top of Formpfg cahhat hsistoriues opf Tencent, which is the owner and operator of the most popular chat site in the country.

“WeChat does not store any chat histories – they are only stored on users’ phones and computers,” Tencent said on its official social media account.

“WeChat does not use any chat histories for big data analysis,” it added.

The incident of retrieving of deleted messages was announced on social media a day earlier by ca communist party anti-graft committee in southeastern Hefei, Anhui province which stated that the retrieving had bene done by its branch in a neighbouring city.

“The Chaohu Municipal Discipline Inspection and Supervision Commission in March retrieved a series of deleted WeChat conversations from a suspect,” the post said.

According to the post, a number of suspects on the basis of the retrieved chat history were question by the watchdog after it initiated an investigation into cate following the retrieval.

Confessions of discipline violations were made by many of those questioned, the post claimed.

“From January to April, the commission punished 63 cadres,” it said.

By Saturday, that post was widely circulated on the mainland but it was deleted by Sunday.

The admission that it is possible technically to retrieve deleted message of users form the messaging application that has almost one billion users worldwide, by the Chinese authorities is highly unusual.

This resulted in privacy issues being widely discussed on social media by many Chinese.

“Oh, I finally understand why the US bans mobile phones that are made in China,” one person wrote on Weibo, China’s Twitter.

“Does this mean I’ll have to smash my phone if I want to entirely delete [my chat history]?” another user said.

According to Shenzhen-based Tencent, launched in 2011, there are about 980 million monthly active users of WeChat at the end of the quarter ended September 30 and it has become the largest social network in China.

There were allegations against Tencent that is was invading the privacy of WeChat users by Li Shufu, chairman of carmaker Geely early this year.

Tencent chairman Pony Ma Huateng “is watching us through WeChat every day because he can see whatever he wants”, Li said at a public event on January 1.

Those allegations were denied by Tencent.

Last year, there was also a clash of the company with telecommunications equipment maker Huawei Technologies on issues related to the authority of collecting personal data of users of WeChat app that had been installed on Huawei’s smartphones.

(Adapted from SCMP.com)

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