WeChat is convenient, ubiquitous, and omnipotent, but it’s not without its share of risks and downsides.
With over one billion users and roughly 40 billion messages sent daily, WeChat is a force of nature in China and enjoys little to no competition in the messaging space from domestic rivals.
With the backing of the Chinese government, which has worked to ensure foreign competitors face insurmountable barriers to entry in China. Both WhatsApp and Facebook were banned outright in an effort to protect WeChat’s market position, but it has also suppressed the Chinese population’s freedom of speech and expression in the process.
There are even whispers that the app has been subsidized by the Chinese government since its inception in 2011, further cementing their give-and-take relationship. Of course, in exchange for this protection, WeChat allows the Chinese authorities the ability to actively censor and monitor activity on the platform.
In an even darker turn, the Chinese authorities recently revealed they have the capability of obtaining previously deleted messages from WeChat users.
I mean, therein lies the problem, no?
WeChat users across China are unable to freely communicate or express themselves on the app they use for every kind of communication because they have no privacy or security.
In-store payments and P2P money transfers, ride programs like Uber, food delivery, online content and marketing, all group and personal communication, and the list goes on – basically, WeChat users would be hard-pressed to abandon such a ‘useful’ app. Honestly, it makes me wonder if the Chinese people even understand the level of the government’s involvement, and if they do, do they just accept it as a fact of life?
This coupled with China’s notorious “Great Firewall” effectively fulfills the government’s propaganda objectives while simultaneously preventing access to outside information.
But, perhaps even most frightening is the government’s development of a digital ID system tied in with WeChat. Under this system, WeChat will issue virtual ID cards to its users. On the surface, this might actually seem like an efficient and convenient way to manage one’s identity. However, the government’s real motives appear to be much darker.
By issuing digital ID’s through WeChat, the authorities can exert even more influence and control over people’s daily lives by knowing their exact whereabouts and activities.
The privacy implications of the government’s cozy relationship with WeChat should not only alarm us, but also encourage us to understand how centralized platforms in North America are subject to similar risks. While we frequently hear about how the Chinese authorities surveil WeChat, Western governments, too, have all sorts of ways to extract data from centralized platforms.
So, while we may not be monitored and censored to the exact same extent, the risks are still present and we must recognize that freedom of speech, expression, and thought are fundamental human rights and we must fight for them at all costs.
About Skrumble Network
Skrumble Network (SKM) is a new, innovative public blockchain that is uniquely optimized for secure communication-centric connections and transactions, decentralized applications, and offers a communication layer for developers to build into any application. With no middle entity or centralized server host in between to censor, block or manipulate any data, Skrumble Network’s blockchain and decentralized applications aim to be a catalyst for data privacy and help to truly democratize communication on a global scale. For more information, please visit https://skrumble.network/.