Tencent refutes claims that it stores WeChat messages

Tencent refutes claims that it stores WeChat messages

Tencent has hit back against suggestions that it monitors user accounts by stating that it does not store user messages sent via its popular WeChat service.

In a social media post, the Chinese firm stated: “WeChat does not store any users’ chat history. That is only stored in users’ mobiles, computers and other terminals. WeChat will not use any content from user chats for big data analysis. Because of WeChat’s technical model that does not store or analyse user chats, the rumour that ‘we are watching your WeChat everyday’ is pure misunderstanding.”

The statement was prompted in response to an observation made by Li Shufu, the chairman of Geely, which owns Volvo. Li was quoted as saying that Tencent chairman Ma Huateng “must be watching all our WeChats every day.”

There is some basis behind Li’s claim, as the Chinese government does require social media platforms to remove any posts that it deems “illegal”. WeChat’s privacy policy notes that it may be required to retain and supply user information “in response to a request by a government authority, law enforcement agency or similar body.”

China’s stringent censorship laws have been a roadblock to western Internet companies that would otherwise be keen to tap into the vast market. The country has shown no willingness to compromise, with the Qi Xiaoxia, director general of the Bureau of International Cooperation at the Cyberspace Administration of China, stating last month that companies such as Google and Facebook would need to comply with the censorship laws if they wished to enter China.

WeChat is China’s most popular messaging service, although more internationally known services have recently been blocked in the country. The government restricted access to WhatsApp in the run-up to October 2017’s Communist Party congress, while in November last year Skype was taken down from both the Apple and Android app stores.