Chinese social media platforms are seeing a surge in concerns where users have complained about apps’ possible misuse of their personal information or messaging history. This concern was heightened by Allen Zhang Xiaolong, head of China’s most popular messaging app WeChat, who said last week that some domestic keyboard apps are suspected of violating users’ privacy.
There were more than 765 million users of keyboard apps in China as of September, according to statistics released by data analysis company Analysys and there has long been debates about keyboard apps infringing on user privacy, industry watchers said.
Keyboard apps that collect user behavior information have been shown to have gone beyond the necessary and acceptable collection of personal data of users, Fang Xingdong, founder of Beijing-based technology think tank ChinaLabs.
Parent companies of these apps seem reluctant to talk about the issue. Technology firm Sogou, which owns Sogou Input Method, said it has no comment on privacy issues. Artificial intelligence startup iFlyTek, a speech recognition champion which developed iFlyTek Input, had not responded to a formal request for comment.
The app market has long been suspected of privacy violations and faces few legal constraints.Several were on the list of the 131 mobile phone apps that infringe on users’ rights and interests that was released by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) last October. Problems with these apps include improper collection or use of personal information, and excessive request for permission.
Calling for legislation that specify penalties for privacy intrusion, the industry veteran also advised several cases typifying input methods infringing on user privacy ought have clearly defined penalties to legally deter these apps from rampant collection of user data.