WeChat denies reading users’ private messages to train its AI

One important reason why voice assistants such as Siri are still not smart enough is that there is not enough data based on real chats between users. This has sparked doubts among certain people that WeChat, China’s most popular messaging app, is collecting and retaining user chat records in order to use it for AI data training, TechNode’s Chinese sister site has reported.

Li Shufu, chairman of Chinese automaker Geely, has recently made accusations against WeChat for invading user privacy. “Pony Ma is watching us through WeChat every day,” the tycoon says.

WeChat has swiftly denied the charge in a statement published today, insisting that the networking app does not “keep” user chat history, nor does it use chat history for big data analysis. The statement goes as follows:

1. WeChat does not retain any user chat records. The chat content is only stored on users’ mobile phones, computers, and other terminal equipment.

2. WeChat does not use any chat content of the user for large data analysis.

3. Because WeChat does not use the technological model of storing and analyzing user chat content, to say that “we are watching your WeChat every day” is purely a misconception.

Please rest assured that respect for user privacy has always been one of the most important principles of WeChat. We have no authority and no reason to “look at your WeChat”.

Zhang Jun, Tencent’s public relations director, also responded to the accusations (in Chinese) by saying that it was normal for people to worry about and misconstrue something that they do not understand. Insiders, however, are wondering if the official reply is a play on words: “does not keep” doesn’t mean WeChat can’t see the user data. Such a reply also lacks support from a third party watchdog.

This is not the first time WeChat has had to address accusations of reading its users’ chat logs.  In response to Huawei’s data dispute in August this year, Ding Ke, vice president of Tencent, said: “WeChat’s value orientation is never related to users chatting. WeChat does not read and analyze chat records.”

The dispute between the two tech giants erupted over the right to collect user data from Tencent’s popular app WeChat installed on Huawei phones. Ding Ke said that Tencent protected data and privacy and that their AI training model uses basic user data which is “statistically significant and not directed against user privacy.”