WeChat and Privacy

As most of you know, I’m a big fan of the “digital life.” By that I mean moving as many chores and record keeping tasks as possible into the digital realm—in particular, onto my iPhone. Thus I pay almost all bills digitally, take notes, scan and store receipts, keep copies of important documents on my phone, and generally strive towards making my iPhone the only thing I need to carry.

I haven’t quite emptied my pockets of everything but my iPhone although it’s certainly possible as WeChat users in China have shown [1, 2, 3]. As I wrote in those previous posts, though, I’m not necessarily looking for a single portal like WeChat and in particular, I have no interest in installing WeChat. This article explains why.

WeChat is manufactured by the Chinese company Tencent and has therefore long been suspected of sharing its users’ data with the Chinese government. As the article makes clear, this is indeed the case and virtually everything a user types into the app is recorded and made available to the government. This isn’t Tencent’s fault of course: they have to abide by the laws of their country just as American firms have to abide by US laws. Nonetheless, I have no interest in sharing the details of my, admittedly mundane, life with the Chinese or anyone else.

What I’m hoping for is Apple Pay or something like it to become universal so I can ditch my cash and credit cards and for more services (governmental, taxi, takeout ordering, and so on) to be available through a smart phone app. I don’t care if there are multiple apps. In fact, that’s probably preferable because it eliminates a single point of failure (or attack). As I’ve said before, I don’t think we in the West will have to wait much longer. The Chinese have already shown it can be done and Apple has shown it can be done securely and privately.

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