CITP researcher Mona Wang finds that WeChat exposes users to privacy violations

In Should We Chat? Privacy in the WeChat Ecosystem, a report published by The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, CITP graduate student Mona Wang, found that users of the popular messaging and social media platform WeChat are vulnerable to privacy violations when they use so-called “Mini Programs” — applications that can be downloaded and launched within WeChat.

Poster with drawings of a hand holding a mobile phone as the user uses WeChat

Image credit: The Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, University of Toronto

“The WeChat privacy policy implies that only third parties collect this data, despite the fact that WeChat collects a vast amount of data, not just the third party developers of the Mini Program,” Wang, an Open Technology Fund Fellow, and her team at The Citizen Lab write in the report. “For the average user, it means your identity and activities on Mini Programs are disclosed to WeChat without an informed way to opt-out of this data collection. This will not only pose a privacy risk but it’s also unknown how WeChat might use that information.”

The report is the first in a two-part series on a privacy and security analysis of the WeChat ecosystem. The second part is scheduled to run in August 2023.