Tencent’s photo editing app goes viral, attracts concerns over data privacy

A new photo editing feature that lets netizens create selfies looking like they’re in the last century has gone viral in China. Picture of My Past Life in Chinese (前世青年照) has collected over 80 million pictures over the past few days, boosting the app behind it, Tiantian P-Tu (天天P图), to the second most popular app on China’s app stores.

Despite its popularity, experts quickly warned that users who upload their pictures to the feature might encounter data security issues. Criticism of the company lies mainly on its failure to ask permission from users before accessing their camera and the possible risks in sharing their pictures.

Tiantian P-Tu, a picture editing app made by WeChat’s creator Tencent, responded quickly today saying that they will neither keep users’s personal data such as the time and place they uploaded the photos, nor store the edited picture.

Scanning a QR code and uploading a headshot photo, then a composite self-portrait dressed either in China’s traditional qipao, Sun Yat-Sen suit, or other clothing that mark the fashion at the beginning of last century, is ready for you to attract tens of “likes” from friends. The feature become an instant hit among China’s nostalgic selfie fans who want to “time travel” and meet their past lives from one hundred year ago. The feature was rolled out to celebrate May 4th, the country’s National Youth Day to honor the memory of the May Fourth Movement of 1919.

China’s selfie-obsessed netizens have started a weird tradition of celebrating special occasions with themed photos. In a similar move, WeChat users got excited when they receive a Santa Clause hat on WeChat profile photo and WeChat Moment was flooded with selfies of people dressed in People’s Liberation Army uniforms at the 90th anniversary of the PLA last year.