Regulator raps Momo over deepfake app Zao’s data collection

1 min read
Zao on Apple’s China App Store. (Image credit: TechNode)

Chinese authorities summoned executives from dating and social platform Momo on Tuesday to discuss data collection practices and privacy protection relating to its deepfake app Zao, which went viral over the weekend.

Why it matters: Chinese regulators are paying closer attention to how apps collect and use personal data as everyday activities such as payments are increasingly going digital in the country.

Details: The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) ordered Momo to conduct a self-review and self-regulation of the app, reported state-backed People’s Daily Online.

  • The regulator is requiring Zao to revise its user agreement and data collection practices to adhere to current data privacy laws.
  • Zao claimed in a statement (in Chinese) on Tuesday that it doesn’t store biometric data related to facial recognition, adding that the face verification is used only to ensure that the uploaded photo belongs to the user.
  • The app echoed a statement from Alipay (in Chinese) saying that deepfake apps pose no risk of being fraudulently used on payment tools, as facial recognition payments are much more technologically advanced and face-swapping based on a single photo cannot breach such platforms.
  • Zao also promised to remove user data according to related laws once users choose to delete their accounts.

Context: Released on August 31 by a majority-owned unit of Momo, Zao quickly went viral in China before policies in its user agreement which allow excessive data collection were widely publicized.

  • The app was so popular that its servers hit maximum capacity on launch day.
  • The original user agreement granted Zao “completely free, irrevocable, perpetual, transferrable, and re-licensable rights” to content users upload and create. Following user backlash, the app said on Sunday that it had removed the clause from the agreement.