Five Chinese mobile payment apps record sensitive information users store in their mobile devices, which can be used to track and monitor personal activities, FactWire can reveal.
The five popular Chinese mobile payment apps, WeChat, Taobao, Taobao World, Alipay and Tmall, were analyzed through program analyses built from open source code. These analyses discovered the apps collect and file users’ sensitive information such as their IMEI, activities and location data, and the specific information is then made available for transferal to servers in mainland China.
China plans to introduce a “social credit system” in five years’ time which will file information including users’ online activities for surveillance. Based on one’s records, the authorities could make decisions that could impact one’s life, such as whether one could receive tax benefits, choose soft beds in trains, get on a flight or cross borders.
Cybersecurity and hacking experts stated that one could track and monitor users’ activities once the relevant sensitive information is collected. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) said that there are no regulations in Hong Kong that ban the transferal of personal information to places outside Hong Kong.
According to the “Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System (2014-2020)” issued by China’s State Council, the sincerity of every citizen within Chinese borders in administrative, commercial, social and judicial affairs would be recorded, accessed, scored and filed for the inspection and surveillance of the Government or relevant organizations.
The Internet is also included in the scope of the credit system. Since August 2016, app providers must record user logs and keep them for at least 60 days to assist inspection and surveillance by relevant government departments if necessary.
Many smartphone apps commonly used in Hong Kong are developed and operated by Chinese enterprises, leading to concerns about whether relevant laws in mainland China also apply to Hong Kong people. FactWire launched an investigation into the top five Chinese apps on Google Play’s “Top Free in Android Apps” list that are designed for mobile payment or online transaction and are most used by Hong Kong people.