China rebukes 43 apps including Tencent’s WeChat for breaking data transfer rules

Illustration picture of Wechat app on a mobile phone
The messenger app WeChat is seen next to its logo in this illustration picture taken August 7, 2020. REUTERS/Florence Lo/Illustration

August 18, 2021

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said on Wednesday that 43 apps, including Tencent Holdings Ltd’s WeChat, were found to have illegally transferred user data, and ordered their parent companies to make rectifications.

The move comes as Chinese authorities tighten regulatory oversight on a range of industry, with a particular emphasis on privacy and data.

In a statement published online, the regulator said the apps had illegally transferred users’ contact list and location data, while also harassing them with pop-up windows.

The list also included an e-reading app owned by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, as well as others managed by travel giant Trip.com, and video streamer iQiyi.

MIIT stated that the apps will have until Aug. 25 to make rectifications, or else they will be punished in accordance with relevant laws and regulations.

Alibaba iQiyi and Tencent did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Trip.com declined to comment.

The punishment comes during a year of ongoing regulatory scrutiny towards tech companies.

On Tuesday, China’s State Administration for Market Regulation published a set of draft rules aimed at improving fair competition, banning practices such as fake reviews and inflated public metrics.

(Reporting by Josh Horwitz and Brenda Goh in Shanghai, Yingzhi Yang in Beijing; editing by Jason Neely and Anil D’Silva)