Now, We Chat is poised to take on an even greater role: an initiative is underway to integrate We Chat with China’s electronic ID system.
Whether it’s enough to create an obstacle for We Chat’s considerable advantage is an open question.
We Chat’s rise in China was aided by the censorship of foreign apps, government subsidies, and integration with government agencies.
Tencent doesn’t disclose when the government requests user data and gives no detail about the kind of encryption, if any, it employs.
Despite the privacy concerns, We Chat remains dominant.
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Tencent scored a zero out of 100 for We Chat’s lack of freedom of speech protection and lack of end-to-end encryption in a 2016 Amnesty International report on user privacy.
says that the digital IDs will be an “easy way to prove that ‘it’s really me’ anywhere, at any time, without worrying about identity theft.” We Chat users will, of course, still have to carry their phones, and they could still be vulnerable to identity theft if someone gains access to their phones. The Ministry of Public Security did not immediately respond.
China has experimented with electronic ID cards on a mobile app before.
(Tencent is a content partner of in China.) We Chat’s dominance is aided by the government, which has censored Facebook Messenger since 2009, blocked the South Korean-owned Line app in 2015, and banned Whats App last year.