Chinese netizens get privacy-conscious

ON THE NIGHT of August 30th, soon after ZAO—an app whose name means “to make”—was launched, it proved so wildly popular that its servers crashed repeatedly. Almost as rapidly, a sudden backlash from its many fans nearly unmade it. Technology-news outlets and meticulous netizens who had combed through the terms of its user agreement found that by signing up, users had granted ZAO “completely free”, “irrevocable” and “perpetual” rights to all content they uploaded to its platform.

Furious comments flooded Apple’s app store in China, where ZAO is now rated a measly two stars out of five. (This did not stop it from becoming China’s most-downloaded free app in the store.) WeChat, a dominant Chinese app—always eager to stick it to a potential rival—blocked ZAO links from being shared on its messaging service citing “security risks”. ZAO swiftly removed the offending clause. On September 3rd it apologised to users and pledged to protect their personal data “in every possible way”.

China’s freewheeling internet users hand plenty of precious information over to the country’s data-grubbing apps. A report published last month by a Chinese cyber-security think-tank found that 1,000 of the country’s most-downloaded mobile applications hoover up an average of 20 types of data from each user. These often include call logs and videos...



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