App reading information without the user’s consent and infringing on personal privacy is an old problem. In recent years, relevant departments have continued to increase their rectification efforts, but they have not yet been completely eradicated. A few days ago, a user posted a screenshot saying “WeChat for iOS repeatedly reads the user’s album in the background”. According to its description, the “Privacy” function of the new version of iOS15 has “Record App Activity”, which can store data such as App access location or microphone within 7 days.
When the user does not actively activate the application, the WeChat background reads the album several times, each time ranging from 40 seconds to 1 minute. Similar behaviors also exist in QQ, Taobao and other software.
WeChat responded that reading the photo album was authorized by the user, so that users can quickly post pictures in WeChat chat and make the experience faster and smoother. The reading behavior is only done locally on the phone, and this function will be cancelled in the latest version of WeChat.
Although the phenomenon of apps secretly reading user information and even eavesdropping on user recordings has been repeatedly discussed over the years, this incident has aroused widespread concern. First, WeChat, QQ, Taobao, etc. are all national-level applications, which are almost everyone’s daily use tools. As a head app, not only did they fail to demonstrate, but instead engage in “small actions”, which constitutes a lot of the society’s expectations for large platforms. The gap.
For the two, in the context of the continuous improvement of the relevant regulatory systems in the past two years, there are still apps taking risks, which further increases the bad impression. The “Regulations on the Scope of Necessary Personal Information for Common Types of Mobile Internet Applications” released in March this year clearly stipulated the boundaries of personal information collected by apps. It stipulates that the only necessary personal information that can be collected by instant messaging apps is the mobile phone number and account number of registered users, and the list of instant messaging contact accounts. Reading the user’s photo album obviously constitutes an out-of-bounds.
WeChat’s response explained this behavior as “for your own good.” This kind of bizarre logic echoes the previously criticized argument that users are “willing to exchange privacy with convenience”, but they are actually untenable.
There are clear boundaries on what information an App can collect. Even for the convenience of users, it should stop within the boundary. Furthermore, since it is for user convenience, at least the user’s consent must be sought in advance.
In theory, every time a user uses WeChat to send a picture, it is a process of reading the album, which is understood and authorized by the user. However, when the user does not actively activate the application, the App reads the album in the background, which is a secret operation that circumvents the user’s right to know, which is beyond the necessary scope, and it is inevitable that people will doubt their true motives.
WeChat stated that we should correct the mistake if we know it, but we still have to ask why such mistakes can only be corrected after they are exposed? In addition, netizens exposed the phenomenon in the iOS15 system. Does the same situation exist in the Android system?
In this regard, not only are platform and App developers required to conduct self-examination and self-correction, relevant departments should also intervene in a timely manner, advance systematic investigations, and deal with violations in accordance with the law, so as to reaffirm and defend the personal information protection position and the boundaries of personal information collection. The old problem of apps illegally reading and collecting personal information can no longer be used to it.
Special Commentator/Fan Yi