Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 1st Feb 2018 19:29 UTC
Internet & Networking

China's most popular messaging app, WeChat, has always had a close relationship with the Chinese government. The app has been subsidized by the government since its creation in 2011, and it's an accepted reality that officials censor and monitor users. Now, WeChat is poised to take on an even greater role: an initiative is underway to integrate WeChat with China's electronic ID system.

WeChat is a remarkably clever move by the Chinese government. Everybody over there is already using it, and by basically co-opting it, they get a free statewide monitoring and control platform. Ban a few western alternatives here and there, and you're done. Western nations are toying with similar ideas - see e.g. Germany's new laws - and it doesn't take a genius to see the dangers here. While you may 'trust' your current government to not abuse such wide-ranging laws and technical capabilities, you might not be so eager with the next one. If Americans can vote for a Trump, Europeans can, too.

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Choose your poison
by shepherdr on Thu 1st Feb 2018 20:31 UTC
shepherdr
Member since:
2006-01-19

I fail to see the connection between WeChat and the BBC link about new German rules. Nor do I see the validity of the warning about trusting your current government but the next might not be so benevolent.

The Chinese do not chose their government - they are not a liberal democracy. The Chinese government is not voted in by the people. The government also imposes restrictions (such as birth control) and censorship on the lives of the population. However this is not a lesson to be learned for the future decisions the West might take - China is not an example of a democracy that has been corrupted by bad mistakes in electing governments or allowing laws in the past that resulted in the current situation. China has evolved from a more repressive feudal state to what it is now - it has not degenerated from a more liberal society.

The German law says that ISPs or social media services must take down posts which contravene hate speech laws that already exist. It is illegal in Germany to express these thoughts in public.

In the UK hate speech is also illegal as are crimes such as incitement and libel. I see nothing wrong with that nor the expectation that ISPs or social media networks should take down posts which contravene these laws.

The US 1st amendment protects the freedom of speech but that does not apply to all countries - nor should it - some countries to a greater or lesser extent have CHOSEN to allow their government representatives to outlaw some types of expression. I have seen videos of Americans burning effigies of gay people on marches right in front of the police while chanting "Jesus this and Jesus that" "burn the gays" etc etc and they are immune to prosecution.

I personally like a bit of suppression of free expression.

Reply Score: 4

RE: Choose your poison
by Tony Swash on Thu 1st Feb 2018 23:58 UTC in reply to "Choose your poison"
Tony Swash Member since:
2009-08-22

If you want to find out about a truly horrifying, scary and giant Chinese government project just read this article from Wired entitled "Big data meets Big Brother as China moves to rate its citizens". The scope of the Chinese government's ambitions and plans to control its citizens are staggering.

http://www.wired.co.uk/article/chinese-government-social-credit-sco...

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Choose your poison
by shepherdr on Fri 2nd Feb 2018 00:49 UTC in reply to "RE: Choose your poison"
shepherdr Member since:
2006-01-19

Okay, China plans to monitor and rate their citizens. All very 1984 but how is this a lesson or warning for the readers of OSnews who all seem to come from liberal western democracies? What happens in China or North Korea or the old Soviet Republic are not lessons for us. They did not get to where they are through a corruption of a previously wholesome democracy.

I don't live in any of these places so I have no idea whether the control or surveillance exhibited by the state improves or worsens the lives of the people (if indeed the state even cares to about this) in those countries. I do know that overturning dictatorships in the name of democracy does lead to severe suffering (at least in the short term) in countries whose mere survival is tenuous and relies upon the rule of a dictator just to hold them together.

To suggest enacting laws which ban hate speech in Western countries amounts to the suppression of the right to free speech which will then in turn lead every civilized western democracy down an inexorable path to hegemony seems about a gazillion steps too far.

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: Choose your poison
by benoitb on Fri 2nd Feb 2018 07:40 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Choose your poison"
benoitb Member since:
2010-06-29

What is your opinion on South Korea then for example ?
It is a young democracy, they recently successfully managed to impeach their president. They however require your national ID to register for ANY online service (from e-shopping, blogs, to online gaming). South Korea is a vassal country of the USA.

What about the trend in American online services to require your real name to be used ? To require you to hand over your username and password to all online accounts when crossing the border ? Democracy or not ?

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Choose your poison
by shepherdr on Fri 2nd Feb 2018 08:57 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Choose your poison"
shepherdr Member since:
2006-01-19

I haven't formed an opinion on S Korea. I don't know enough about it. Giving a real name to subscribe to a service seems reasonable to me. It seems that only the online world finds it desirable to hide ones identity. I can't think of a real world service that I have subscribed to that I was allowed to write "anonymous" in the name section of the application form. Anonymous expression of opinion does occur in the real world (graffiti for example) but not when registering for a service

Reply Score: 2

RE[5]: Choose your poison
by benoitb on Fri 2nd Feb 2018 09:39 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Choose your poison"
benoitb Member since:
2010-06-29

The problem with online services is the ease with which you can make complete profiles on too many facets of one individual.

Traditionally it was more difficult I think to access and dig information from different physical companies that would keep the info they had on you to themselves. I could be wrong on that aspect but this is the main reason why I prefer using different pseudos in different places.

Reply Score: 2

RE[6]: Choose your poison
by shepherdr on Sat 3rd Feb 2018 14:23 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Choose your poison"
shepherdr Member since:
2006-01-19

All companies, online or bricks and mortar, are subject to the Data Protection Act in the UK. It is illegal to give my information away to another party without my permission.

Reply Score: 2

fukudasan Member since:
2006-06-04

As I have been living in South Korea for fifteen years or so, let me add a few comments here:

As a foreign national working here (as an English language instructor), there are an increased number of documentary requirements imposed which increased in the wake of the Lee Myung-bak election in December 2007.

Firstly, foreign residents (engaged in teaching languages) were required to submit printouts from their nations' criminal records systems to prove that they had no criminal record. In my case, being from the UK, this turned out to be both cheap and simple, if somewhat time-consuming (at least six weeks from the time that the application form and payment were received). The process was started after a certain Canadian suspected paedophile was arrested AFTER leaving the country on the basis of his monitored online soliciting activities.

Later, it was decided that applicants for E2 visas (and probably others) should submit notarised copies of their original Degree certificates with their applications. Some time after that, they decided that this was not enough, and that copies of Degrees should be first notarised and then apostilled, which of course added more time, excessive cost and general inconvenience to the process. But it was not possible, at an international level, to have any "higher" certification of authenticity for any document, so they could not progress beyond that point.

Despite originating from a "government-friendly" source, criminal record printouts also now have to be apostilled, again greatly adding to the cost, although the turnaround time for this is much shorter. Payments are taken online.

A successful applicant is issued with a three-month entry visa (by e-mail nowadays; when I first came to Korea, I had the famous "Blue Form" instead) or, if already resident, the visa is renewed, usually for twelve months (to cover the time period of the employment contract) plus thirty days' grace to either arrange to leave the country or to find a new contract.

As the whole system is now both computerised and fully integrated, if you decide to stay, you just fill in a standard form to transfer your visa and you get another twelve months on your ARC (see below); only in exceptional circumstances are you asked to submit new criminal records, for example. Whereas the visa used to be stamped into your passport when issued, they transitioned first to printed stickers and nowadays simply retain your visa information on their computer system, which can be confusing for a foreign passport holder.

Documents are scanned and retained on the system and you can request printed copies to present to other Immigration Offices when you swap jobs.

The foreigner is also issued with a plastic Alien Registration Card (ARC) with their residential address and the term of the visa printed on it. If you leave the country briefly, nowadays you do not have to leave it behind with Customs, as you used to have to.

An individual is in fact allowed to leave the country for up to three months before they have to submit new documents for immigration; it is also possible to apply for a D10 (Jobseeker) visa, which can last for up to six months before you must transfer to another (E2 in my case) visa. But you can do all of these things without leaving the country.

When the new document requirements kicked it, it became apparent quickly that it was becoming an expensive and time-consuming headache to process, and eventually it was standardised so that foreigners already resident in the country, who were transferring between visa sponsors, could stay on the basis that when they entered, they had produced the correct documents and had not left the country in the interim. I am still here on documents issued in 2011, for example.

Barring a few oddities here and there, it seems to have worked quite well. As an extreme example, in November last year I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and had to spent the first half of January in hospital having it removed by laparoscopy and then being monitored (a small, tight Korean cancer ward does not recommend itself to a person who would describe himself as "solitude-oriented", believe me). However, because I am a registered foreign national contributing to the national health system, the state pays 95% of treatment costs, so I only had to contribute the remaining residual, which came out at a little under ₩2,000,000 - about ₤1600.00 at the previous exchange rate.

I am not a naturalised Korean citizen, so I am not allowed to vote, but when it comes to legal thingies, I do not go around committing crimes and generally the police here are laid-back and helpful; they often pack heat but you are unlikely to get yourself shot by them or by any armed forces (I used to teach mainly soldiers at the KDLI [Joint Military University], so I do know those people, too). A "real name" is obviously needed for the issuance of credit and debit cards (they finally gave me one of each) and your address needs to be notified to Immigration when you change it, but that's about it.

And no, you do NOT have to submit your ARC Number (ID) for EVERY service here, just some of them. Obviously this was necessary for my cancer treatment because I am a tax payer for as long as I am here, and therefore I need to prove legal entitlement. Likewise, it is used when receiving items sent by courier from abroad, like my new VISA Card back in December, to identify the recipient.

But I have never had any visits from the likes of the police or customs officials, for example. And I think that the Koreans that I interact with are generally happy to be shown that I am "known to the authorities", so to speak. But generally, South Korea is not so bad, really.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Choose your poison
by Tony Swash on Fri 2nd Feb 2018 10:38 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Choose your poison"
Tony Swash Member since:
2009-08-22

Okay, China plans to monitor and rate their citizens. All very 1984 but how is this a lesson or warning for the readers of OSnews who all seem to come from liberal western democracies? What happens in China or North Korea or the old Soviet Republic are not lessons for us. They did not get to where they are through a corruption of a previously wholesome democracy.

I don't live in any of these places so I have no idea whether the control or surveillance exhibited by the state improves or worsens the lives of the people (if indeed the state even cares to about this) in those countries. I do know that overturning dictatorships in the name of democracy does lead to severe suffering (at least in the short term) in countries whose mere survival is tenuous and relies upon the rule of a dictator just to hold them together.

To suggest enacting laws which ban hate speech in Western countries amounts to the suppression of the right to free speech which will then in turn lead every civilized western democracy down an inexorable path to hegemony seems about a gazillion steps too far.


I agree. China is not a liberal democracy and it is far too easy to draw unwarranted parallels and as a result get hysterically anxious about authoritarianism or state snooping in the old democracies. There are a lot of issues to unpick here. For example:

- generally the processes of democratic governance has declined in the old democracies, party support has fragmented, voter participation has declined and in Europe we have built a fairly powerful tier of governance (the EU) which is not democratic. How this will pan out long term is not yet clear.

- The rise of of social media does change cultural and political discourse in ways that are still not clear and how society might best regulate the new media is still not clear

- China will not continue to grow in the future like it has in the recent past and in fact the trajectory for the Chinese economy is much more likely to be like the trajectory of Japan which before the 1990s was believed destined to become the largest in the world but which then suffered a debt crisis followed by decades of relative stagnation (see the excellent analytical work on the Chinese economy and ‘growth miracles’ by Proff. Michael Pettis)

Reply Score: 0

RE[3]: Choose your poison
by imthefrizzlefry on Fri 2nd Feb 2018 16:33 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Choose your poison"
imthefrizzlefry Member since:
2010-10-28

As an American who frequently visits China, I would say China is the future. When you look at all the cameras in London, you know they are hooked up to a facial recognition databases (just like in China). When you hear about the "right to be forgotten" you know it is silencing political dissent (just like in China). All it takes is for a few million people to support one power hungry person to turn all this "anti-terrorist" and "anti-hate speech" authority into a machine of oppression.

So, I think China is an excellent place to look to see the future of liberal western nations. After all, the political pendulum swings both ways, and anybody can end up with a Trump.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Choose your poison
by MichaelH on Sat 3rd Feb 2018 08:21 UTC in reply to "Choose your poison"
MichaelH Member since:
2011-05-25

Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Frankly, I want to know who the "burn the gays" folks are so I can keep my shotguns pointed at them.

Reply Score: 1

facebook or google?
by unclefester on Fri 2nd Feb 2018 03:18 UTC
unclefester
Member since:
2007-01-13

"...has been subsidized by the government since its creation...and it's an accepted reality that officials...monitor users."


Is this Facebook or Google we're talking about?

Reply Score: 3

Odd
by Poseidon on Fri 2nd Feb 2018 04:43 UTC
Poseidon
Member since:
2009-10-31

These thing has been done with ad tracking/big data when companies require product registrations.

This is taking it to the dark side: he government gets a voluntary low cost version of the corporate one, and make it harder to dissent or organize any reform/primary without the government knowing and keeping tabs on citizens.

Scary stuff indeed.

Reply Score: 2

The123king
Member since:
2009-05-28

The germans have had a fairly well known and well publicised reputation for voting in facist nutcases. Let's hope they don't fall for the extremists again.

Though i think it's countries like France, Spain, and even my home country of the UK that you will need to watch out for extreme dictatorial leaders. I don't think the heat from WWII has died down enough for Germany to fall into the same trap 3 times in 100 years

Reply Score: 1

BeamishBoy Member since:
2010-10-27

I don't think the heat from WWII has died down enough for Germany to fall into the same trap 3 times in 100 years


That's quite surprising, especially given that the Krauts have been up to their old tricks again lately, gassing with abandon all manner of primates in order to expand their economic lebensraum:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/31/business/energy-environment/bmw-d...

Plus ça change ...

Reply Score: 3

Comment by nrlz
by nrlz on Fri 2nd Feb 2018 10:15 UTC
nrlz
Member since:
2006-01-27

Let's break down WeChat's features and analyze them one by one:

1-1 Messaging:
Nothing groundbreaking or profitable here. They do have a lot of features like sending voice messages, stickers, sending photos, sending money, etc.

Group Messaging:
Nothing groundbreaking or profitable here. The government probably monitors these for potential conspirators or trouble makers.

Video Conferencing (1-1 and group):
Probably nothing groundbreaking or profitable here.

Blog (like Facebook):
WeChat inserts ads in between friends' posts for revenue. The government probably also monitors these for the same reason as group messaging. But a users posts are not 100% public. You must be friends with someone to see their posts. Unless if you deliberately look up their profile where you can see their last 10 posts if they choose to make them public. This makes using blog posts to spread propaganda difficult since your audience must add you as a friend first to see your posts.

Mini apps (like ride-sharing or buying movie tickets):
WeChat has direct links to mini-apps but these mini-apps are really just third-party webpages loaded through the WeChat app that hook into WeChat's authentication and payment system. It saves users from having to deal with usernames and credit card stuff. I don't know if WeChat takes a cut from those services but regardless they still make a profit by getting users to use WeChat Pay.

Single Sign-In (like "Login with Facebook"):
Single sign-in is mostly used by other phone apps which direct you to WeChat and then direct you back to the third party app with your user token. Nothing groundbreaking or profitable here. WeChat requires your phone number on first launch and they verify it with an SMS message, which deters most fake accounts. All China phone numbers require verification of your national IDs before they can be activated. So that further deters fake accounts but it does allow a user to create multiple accounts as users can have multiple phone numbers.

WeChat Pay:
This is probably their cash cow and has the benefit of the network effect (the more users that use it, the better the system and the more users they can attract). But as a payment platform they charge very little fees compared with other players like PayPal or Visa. Not to mention they side stepped Apple/Android's 30% cut off all transactions.

1. Moving money from your bank account to WeChat is free.
2. Transferring money to other users is free.
3. Moving money back to your bank account charges 0.1%.
If you run a business and you accept money through WeChat using the user-to-user method and you pay your suppliers also using WeChat, then you've incurred no charges. e.g., if you buy a cake for $10 and sell it for $15 and use WeChat for both transactions, there are no charges. But if you want to transfer the $5 profit to your bank account, you pay $0.005 in fees to WeChat.
4. But transferring money in user-to-user mode is cumbersome as it must be performed phone-to-phone. WeChat supports external barcode scanners used in supermarkets/restaurants which charges a transaction fee ranging from 0.1% to 1% depending on the business type with the median being 0.6%. (Source: http://kf.qq.com/faq/140225MveaUz1501077rEfqI.html )

The government would probably have a blast correlating users with their purchases. Plus they know your cellphone number through WeChat so they can triangulate your real-time location.

Edited 2018-02-02 10:34 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE: Comment by nrlz
by unclefester on Sat 3rd Feb 2018 02:55 UTC in reply to "Comment by nrlz"
unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13

Chinese corporations exist at the whim of the party. It is irrelevant whether businesses are profitable as long as they support party goals.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by nrlz
by kwan_e on Sat 3rd Feb 2018 08:19 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by nrlz"
kwan_e Member since:
2007-02-18

Chinese corporations exist at the whim of the party.


You assume the party is always of one mind, which is factually not true. There are factions within the CCP, just as there are multiple parties and factions within those parties in other countries, democratic or not.

The president still has to negotiate with the factions, or do a purge in extreme cases, to push their interest through. But it's far from a whim.

It is irrelevant whether businesses are profitable


That is false. Many state owned corporations in China have been restructured based on profitability, even broken up into more streamlined and coherent units. Not even the CCP can stay in power based on corruption alone. It actually needs to perform well economically and they learnt the hard way that there's no way to hide it in the long run.

as long as they support party goals.


One of the party goals is that they remain profitable. The other party goal is not to be publicly humiliated, which means they remain profitable and not get caught doing things which would undermine the party's image, which includes blatant corruption.

Reply Score: 4

RE[3]: Comment by nrlz
by unclefester on Sat 3rd Feb 2018 09:31 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by nrlz"
unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13

chinese corporations are totally opaque. Their published financial statements are invariably complete works of fiction (the real accounts are actually state secrets). Nobody knows who the real owners are or how much the company has borrowed or lent of the balance sheet (shadow loans).

Reply Score: 1

RE[4]: Comment by nrlz
by kwan_e on Sat 3rd Feb 2018 13:36 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by nrlz"
kwan_e Member since:
2007-02-18

chinese corporations are totally opaque. Their published financial statements are invariably complete works of fiction (the real accounts are actually state secrets). Nobody knows who the real owners are or how much the company has borrowed or lent of the balance sheet (shadow loans).


You didn't address any of my points - notably the factionalism that exists within the CCP. If any of those corporations are in so much trouble, it would easily be used as a political weapon.

But the fact is, Chinese corporations have been restructured or split up based on financial performance. Your response does nothing to address that fact.

Reply Score: 4

i don't like wechat
by ktmabc on Mon 5th Feb 2018 15:36 UTC
ktmabc
Member since:
2018-02-05

I do not like the way it works. It prevents people in the world from connecting to each other
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Edited 2018-02-05 15:37 UTC

Reply Score: 1