Tencent’s WeChat will no longer consistently display images after tech influencer goes public on Weibo

WeChat, the Chinese social media platform, has pledged to stop regularly reviewing user images after the behavior has been exposed by an online influencer.

With 1.25 billion monthly active users (MAU), it has been discovered that the country’s leading social media app frequently accesses photo galleries even when not in use, raising issues of confidentiality. The behavior was made public by a tech influencer known as Hackl0us on the Weibo microblogging platform.

According to Hackl0us, who cited threads from a Telegram chat channel, the app, run by Tencent Holdings, sometimes displays user images for up to 1 minute each while running in the background. According to the screenshots, WeChat visits photo galleries every few hours.

According to reports, the activity was detected using Apple’s new “Record App Activity” feature in iOS 15, which launched last month.
According to a WeChat official, the app searches for new images to allow users to submit photos “faster and easier.” However, the company claims that the software only has access to the entire user gallery when the user authorizes it.

“Weixin takes user privacy seriously,” the company said in a statement, referring to WeChat in Chinese. “Without the user’s permission, Weixin does not collect, save or upload any photographs from a user’s album.”
A company official said background scanning for the new photos “will be rolled back in the new edition.”

The same influencer later added that the QQ messaging app from Tencent and Taobao, Alibaba Group Holding’s main online retail market with around MAU 900 million, were also discovered to regularly access images of the users.

The action is “very unpleasant,” according to the influencer, as photos are private and scanning consumes memory and electricity. His suggested solution was for users to disable these capabilities in system settings.

After the case was made public, netizens began to voice concerns about the activity, and many continued to do so even after WeChat’s response.

“Now that they can scan photos, it’s pretty easy to read other things on the phone,” said one Weibo user. Another said: “At this time, I run naked on the internet every second. “

In recent years, large tech companies in China have faced increased pressure to address privacy concerns. In 2019, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology began frequently checking apps for privacy breaches. To date, it has reported more than 1,300 apps for violating permissions, illegally collecting user information, and deceiving customers.

This year has also seen the implementation of new data laws and regulations, which have necessitated changes in how businesses operate.

When it comes into force next month, the Personal Data Protection Act will be one of the toughest data protection regulations in the world. The Data Security Act, which came into force last month, established stricter legal requirements for data management methods.

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