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China’s globally popular camera apps may open up user data to Beijing requests

发表于2019年7月24日星期三 美国东部时间下午8:37 | 更新于2019年7月25日星期四 美国东部时间下午7:51

Published Wed, Jul 24 2019 8:37 PM EDT | Updated Thu, Jul 25 2019 7:51 PM EDT

作者:Grace [email protected]

Grace [email protected]


Key Points

  • 随着全球对互联网隐私和数据保护的担忧日益加剧,网络安全专家表示,如果有人要求中国政府提供数据,中国公司不能拒绝。
  • In the wake of growing global concerns over internet privacy and data protection, cybersecurity experts say Chinese companies cannot deny the government if asked for data.
  • 独立数据追踪公司中国黄皮书(China Beige Book)首席执行官利兰德·米勒(Leland Miller)表示:「如果企业不遵从政府的要求,它们就会惹上共产党的麻烦。」。
  • “If companies don’t comply with government requests, they’ll get into trouble with the Communist Party,” said Leland Miller, CEO of China Beige Book, an independent data tracking company.


Tourists take selfies on June 7, 2019.

卡尔·德·索萨 | 法新社 | 盖蒂图片社

Carl de Souza | AFP | Getty Images


Chinese companies are behind some of the most popular photo and video apps around the world. That may mean vast troves of user data are at risk of falling into Beijing’s hands, according to cybersecurity experts.


Concerns are on the rise globally about internet privacy security and data protection, and a recent focus has centered on photo apps. China’s mobile programs count hundreds of millions of active users, but their capacity to ensure privacy remains a matter of debate — especially since there’s less of an emphasis on that factor at home.

事实上,根据 CNBC 的翻译,科技巨头百度的亿万富翁首席执行官李彦宏去年曾引起轩然大波,他说中国人「对隐私问题不那么敏感,他们常常愿意用隐私换取效率」。

In fact, Robin Li, the billionaire CEO of tech giant Baidu, sparked an uproar last year when he said Chinese people “are not so sensitive about privacy issues and they are often willing to exchange privacy for efficiency,” according to CNBC’s translation.


If companies don’t comply with government requests, they’ll get into trouble with the Communist Party.


- Leland Miller CEO of China Beige Book

最近,俄罗斯 FaceApp 的老化功能在一夜之间大受欢迎,这引发了一些人对科技公司与政府合作的担忧。据报道,该应用的首席执行官 Yaroslav Goncharov 告诉《华盛顿邮报》,莫斯科无权访问这些照片,该公司也不会与任何第三方分享用户数据。

The recent overnight popularity of Russian FaceApp’s aging feature evoked some worries about tech companies’ potential collaboration with governments. The app’s CEO, Yaroslav Goncharov, reportedly told The Washington Post that Moscow does not have access to the photos and that the company does not share user data with any third parties.

但与 FaceApp 不同的是,一些中国最大的摄像头应用程序在他们的隐私协议中明确声明,他们向第三方提供数据。然而,目前尚不清楚所谓的第三方是否包括任何政府机构。

But unlike FaceApp, some of China’s biggest camera apps explicitly state in their privacy agreements that they provide data to third parties. It remains unclear, however, whether the so-called third parties include any government agencies.


‘Structural issue’ in privacy law


China isn’t lawless when it comes to cybersecurity. In fact, the country has several sets of guidelines, according to Samm Sacks, a cybersecurity policy and China digital economy fellow at think tank New America.


In May this year, Beijing proposed new regulatory policies to punish companies who breach privacy agreements.


Still, China employs “vague” language, Sacks said, and those laws are “enforced selectively as a tool as needed by the government.”


Government control is the salient point in China’s approach to regulating digital businesses, experts told CNBC. In fact, that’s part of what’s driving Washington’s warnings about telecommunications behemoth Huawei.

独立数据追踪公司中国黄皮书首席执行官利兰·米勒在接受 CNBC 电话采访时表示:「如果企业不遵从政府的要求,他们就会惹上共产党的麻烦。」。

“If companies don’t comply with government requests, they’ll get into trouble with the Communist Party,” Leland Miller, CEO of independent data tracking company China Beige Book, told CNBC during a phone interview.


“That does not mean government requests always happen,” he said, adding that “there is no law sufficient enough to safeguard user data if the government chooses to request this information.”


That is, the data privacy situation in China isn’t a “legal issue,” but rather a “structural issue,” according to Miller. He said that anyone using a Chinese app is realistically “vulnerable” to Beijing’s reach.

即使是中国最知名的科技公司之一腾讯,在这个问题上也模棱两可。该公司在其一般隐私政策网页上写道,它「可能会披露您的个人信息… 以遵守适用的法律和法规。」 腾讯是微信的母公司,微信是中国使用最广泛的社交媒体应用,以及其他各种互联网服务,包括照片编辑应用天天 P-Tu。

Even one of China’s most well-known tech companies, Tencent, was ambiguous on the issue. It wrote in its general privacy policy web page that it “may disclose your personal information ... to comply with the applicable laws and regulations.” Tencent is the parent company of WeChat, the most widely used social media app in China, and various other internet services including photo editing app Tiantian P-Tu.

当被 CNBC 问及其隐私政策中的措辞是否意味着腾讯开发的应用程序向当局提供用户数据时,一位公司发言人简单地回答说「无可奉告」

When asked by CNBC whether the wording in its privacy policy means Tencent-developed apps provide user data to authorities, a company spokesperson simply said “no comment.”


Miller said language like Tencent’s policy “is typically added in to provide notice that the company reserves the right to respond as it deems necessary to any laws or judgments that happen in the future, which (of course) opens a huge door for Beijing to utilize if it so chooses.”

哈里斯·布里肯律师事务所(Harris Bricken)的律师夏(Sara Xia)在博客中写道,只要应用是由中国公司开发的,即使用户生活在海外,或者公司在海外注册,它也会受到中国网络安全法的管辖,因此也会受制于北京的要求。

As long as an app is developed by a Chinese company — even if the user lives abroad or the company is registered overseas — it will fall under the country’s cybersecurity laws, and therefore will be subject to Beijing’s requests, according to a blog post from Sara Xia, an attorney at Harris Bricken.


User data sharing

中国的图片编辑应用程序美图,在中文里意思是「美化图片」,提供了可以去除皱纹、平滑毛孔和延长腿部的功能。根据其2018年年度报告,去年12月,这款手机应用每月有3.32亿活跃用户,其中近68% 是中国用户,32% 来自世界其他地区。

Chinese photo-editing app Meitu, which means “beautify pictures” in Chinese, offers features that can remove wrinkles, smooth pores, and lengthen legs. The mobile app had 332 million monthly active users in December last year, of which, nearly 68% were Chinese users and 32% were from the rest of the world according to its 2018 annual report.


According to Meitu’s privacy policies, it collects personal details such as names, genders, locations, types of devices, and even what network operators are used.

该公司写信给 CNBC,表示只有在「明确同意」的情况下,才会将用户信息上传到云端 美图表示,大部分内容都是在用户的设备上进行处理的。

The company wrote to CNBC it only uploads user information to the cloud with “expressed consent.” Most of the content is processed on users’ devices, according to Meitu.


When asked for how long the company retains user information, Meitu responded by saying that its “retention period strictly abides by the applicable local laws and regulations of where our users are based.”

在美国全国广播公司财经频道多次询问后,美图拒绝否认它将与中国政府分享数据,而是表示,到目前为止,它还没有这样做。「美图严格遵守适用的当地法律和法规,」一位发言人告诉 CNBC。

After repeated inquiries from CNBC, Meitu declined to deny it would ever share data with the Chinese government, instead saying that, as of now, it had not done so. “Meitu strictly abides by the applicable local laws and regulations,” a spokesperson told CNBC.

美图移动首席执行官在北京介绍了新款美图 M4手机的功能并附上了自己的照片。

CEO of MEITU Mobile introduces the function of the new MEITU M4 phone with his own pictures in Beijing, China.

南华早报 | 盖蒂图片社

South China Morning Post | Getty Images

与此同时,全球下载量最高的非游戏应用程序— TikTok 也与中国有联系。

Meanwhile, the most downloaded non-game app worldwide, TikTok also has ties to China.

这款应用最初是由北京的字节跳动开发的,名为抖音。国际版(不为中国服务)于2017年以 TikTok 的名字重新发布。

The app was originally developed by Beijing-based Bytedance under the name Douyin. The international version (which does not serve China) was relaunched in 2017 under the name TikTok.


A spokesperson for the company said the app “neither shares information with the Chinese government, nor operates in the country.”

「我们与领先的第三方数据合作伙伴合作,并存储所有在中国以外的用户数据,」该代表说。「我们正在与一家总部位于美国的独立互联网隐私公司合作,审计我们的做法,并确认我们正在采用行业领先的标准来存储和保护 TikTok 用户数据。」

“We work with leading third-party data partners and store all user data outside of China,” the representative said. “We are working with an independent, US-based internet privacy firm to audit our practices and confirm that we are employing industry-leading standards for the storage and protection of TikTok user data.”

尽管如此,TikTok 2018年的隐私政策表示,根据该网页的存档版本,该公司可以将国际用户的数据转移到中国。然而,该公司似乎在其2019年更新的隐私政策页面中删除了这一条款。

Still, TikTok’s 2018 privacy policy said the company can transfer international users’ data to China, according to archived versions of that web page. The company, however, appears to have removed that clause in its updated 2019 privacy policy page.

它现在说,「我们可以与母公司、子公司或我们公司集团的其他附属公司共享您的信息。」 这意味着它将包括总部位于中国的字节跳动(Bytedance)。

It now says, “We may share your information with a parent, subsidiary, or other affiliate of our corporate group.” That means it would include China-based Bytedance.


Sacks said Bytedance goes to great lengths to separate TikTok as an international operation. But content created outside China could be a “major threat to the (Chinese Communist Party) and domestic stability. So they have a lot of incentives to keep international content and data pretty carved off,” she added.

「没有公开的证据反驳提克托克的声明… 我们没有办法真正知道除了推测,」萨克斯指出。

“There has been no public evidence contradicting TikTok’s statement ... we have no way to really know beyond speculation,” Sacks pointed out.


But Miller holds his skepticism. In reality, if the China-based parent company is requested to share information by Beijing, it will “adhere to any demand by the Party.”

根据应用数据跟踪公司 Sensor Tower 四月份的数据,全球已经有超过11亿用户安装了 TikTok(不包括中国),并且通过应用内购买获得了8000万美元的总收入。

TikTok has been installed by more than 1.1 billion users globally (excluding China), and has grossed $80 million from in-app purchases, according to April figures from app data tracking company Sensor Tower.

— CNBC 的 Wendy Ye 对本文亦有贡献。

— CNBC’s Wendy Ye contributed to this report.


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