Tencent says it will comply with law enforcement requests on user data

March 21, 2018
Industry News
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Celia Chen
celia.chen@scmp.com
Iris Deng
iris.deng@scmp.com

Shenzhen-based Tencent, Asia’s most valuable company by market cap, doubles quarterly profit on strong smartphone games business

Tencent Holdings will comply with law enforcement requests on user data, the company’s senior management said, amid the growing scrutiny and debate on the role that social networks like Facebook should play in protecting customer information.

“We are very concerned about user data security. It is top of our concerns,” Tencent president Martin Lau Chi-ping said at a press conference on Wednesday after the company posted strong fourth-quarter earnings on the back of its games business.

“In a law enforcement situation, of course, any company has to comply with the regulations and laws within the country,” Lau said.

Tencent’s multi-purpose WeChat service, known as Weixin on the mainland, is subject to the laws in China as well as the regulations in countries where it is in use, according to Lau.

WeChat, Tencent’s popular mobile messaging-social network-payments-and-gaming platform, surpassed 1 billion users last month.

Lau’s statement on complying with Chinese law enforcement echoed remarks made in a televised speech in 2016 by Jack Ma Yun, the founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group Holding. Ma said Chinese authorities needed “to embrace internet data in their fight against thieves and criminals”, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

China’s major internet companies, however, have recently been admonished by the government over weak data protection policies.

There have been mounting complaints over breach of privacy, as more than 700 million people on the mainland share personal information to digital services that they use everyday like those for online search, shopping and investing.

Faced with a public backlash for their user data policies, Tencent and the financial affiliate of Alibaba in late December had to clarify how they handled information.

Tencent said its WeChat unit did not spy on user conversations nor retained records, after carmaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group’s chairman, Li Shufu, reportedly said that Tencent chairman and chief executive Pony Ma Huateng was “watching us through WeChat everyday because he can see whatever he wants”.

Scrutiny over privacy and security has recently dogged Facebook, which has 2.2 billion monthly active users at the end of last year.

Facebook, operator of the world’s largest social network, was being investigated by the US Federal Trade Commission over how the personal information of some 50 million users was obtained by a data analytics firm that helped elect United States President Donald Trump, according to reports in the US. Continue Reading 

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