Meitu accused of improper data collection, again

Chinese selfie app Meitu is in trouble over alleged data privacy breaches, with the country’s consumer watchdog giving the company a strong rap on the knuckles.

In a report (in Chinese) released on November 28, the China Consumer Association (CCA) accused 100 apps investigated for privacy breach risks. Hong Kong-listed Meitu had violated user privacy by “excessively collecting recognizable bio data” and “[user] financial information.”

CCA also accuses Meitu for failing to clarify how Meitu’s third-party partners would process acquired data.

CCA’s singling out of Meitu is part of a broader push by the association to scrutinize more closely iOS and Android apps’ ability to protect user data.

Meitu told TechNode that the company has started an internal investigation following CCA’s accusations. The company promises to improve data collection transparency, and will clarify data protection responsibilities when collaborating with third parties.

This is not Meitu’s first data protection violation. In 2017, information security researchers accused the company of collecting information including user location and carrier details.

As of the end of second quarter of 2018 , Meitu had 242.6 million active users in China and 107.2 million users overseas.

The company’s data collection activities are widely seen as feeding Meitu’s facial recognition technology development. In August, MTlab, Meitu’s R&D affiliate for deep learning, computer vision, and computer graphics, won the first prize in International Skin Imaging Collaboration Challenge, a dermatology competition relied on AI. Other participants include Tencent and Lenovo.

Meitu’s stock plunged about 16% on November 29. Prior to this, on November 19, Meitu released a profit warning that predicted a net loss between RMB 950 million (around $137 million) and RMB 1.2 billion for 2018.

Clarification: This article has been updated to clarify that Meitu is one of the 100 apps accused by CCA.