Briefing: WeChat denies report that user chat data was used for targeted ads

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微信被指根据文字聊天精准推送广告,回应:从未监控聊天记录 – The Paper

What happened: In response to a Southern Metropolis Daily report (in Chinese), WeChat issued a statement on Tuesday that it does not use chat log data to better target ads. The article cited a WeChat user who reported receiving an ad about Spring Airlines flights to Osaka, Japan, only minutes after a family member messaged him about exactly that topic. WeChat said that user clicks may affect the information displayed inside the app, but that it doesn’t monitor the content of private chats. Representatives also suggested that such coincidences may be a result of advertiser ability to target specific demographics when placing ads.

Why it’s important: Although WeChat denies monitoring chat logs, its privacy policy has long stated that the app collects other user information, including names, phone numbers, email addresses, credit card info, IDs, and location-related data. In response to European GDPR regulations last May, it added some new privacy protections for the international version of its app. However, the changes haven’t trickled down to the domestic version. In addition, a recent massive leak of user data from platforms including Tencent’s WeChat and QQ, which may have been linked to government databases, shows that privacy fears may be grounded in fact.