Journalists in China know that their messages — sent by text or the country's most popular internet messaging app, WeChat — are likely to be monitored by the government.
In fact the extensive use of government surveillance is an open secret — just not usually discussed in public.
That all changed when the influential chairman of Geely Automobile Holdings Li Shufu attacked Tencent at a New Year's business forum, saying Tencent chair Pony Ma “is definitely looking at our WeChat messages every day.”
In response, today Tencent issued an announcement denying it reads, stores or analyses users’ conversation histories, saying “conversation histories are only stored on the user’s smartphone, computer or other terminals."
But the strong denial does not mean users' histories are actually private. The government requires social messaging companies like Tencent to keep a 6-month record of user activities for use in law enforcement.
And the laws are broad: last year, a man was sentenced to two years in prison after calling President Xi Jinping “steamed bun Xi” in private messages sent to friends on WeChat. Read more
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Tech tools you can use — Appolition
After a year of tech firms being embroiled in discrimination scandals, here's an app that tries to make a positive difference.
Appolition is "an app that converts your daily change into bail money to free black people", says its maker Kortney Ryan Ziegler, a social engineer with a PhD in African-American studies. WIRED reports:
"The app links to a user’s bank account. Whenever the person uses a debit card, credit card or PayPal, the purchase price is rounded up to the nearest dollar. The difference is donated to National Bail Out, a network of grassroots groups that post bail for people who would otherwise languish behind bars while awaiting their day in court."
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