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China’s Latest Viral App Sparks Discussion On Data-Collecting Methods

China’s latest viral sensation, the ‘Personality Label’ app, has taken Chinese social media sites by storm. But after reportedly violating WeChat community guidelines, skeptical netizens have triggered a discussion on the rules surrounding popular apps.

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China’s latest viral sensation, the ‘Personality Label’ app, has taken Chinese social media sites by storm. But after reportedly violating WeChat community guidelines, skeptical netizens have triggered a discussion on the rules surrounding popular apps.

China’s social media sites are never short of trends that can dominate user’s newsfeeds for weeks at a time. However, the latest fad to explode onto the apps of Chinese social media platforms such as Sina Weibo and WeChat seems to have been encountering some issues during its brief time in the spotlight, leading to an online debate on viral apps and the information they collect.

This week, an app by the name of Plato Personality Label (柏拉图性格标签) has been widely circulated among Chinese netizens. The app promises to ‘measure’ your personality with a short test before producing an aesthetically pleasing collage detailing your character. Users are presented with a series of phrases such as “Values their principles!” (“重视原则!”) or “Sometimes overly ambitious” (“有时会好高骛远”).

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The premise is simple enough, and has spread quickly due to the QR-scanning function available on many Chinese social media apps.

After scanning the QR code, users are directed to an official WeChat account under the name of ‘Hangzhou City West’ (杭州大城西).  Once users enter the official account, it invites you to take the personality test under the slogan “Create your own label, endorse yourself!” (“生成你的性格标签,为自己代盐!”). The app then takes your name (4 characters maximum), and birth date, before ‘calculating’ your personality.

The resulting pictures were soon littered around WeChat and Weibo, particularly after popular online celebrity Papi Jiang featured the app on her official Weibo account (@搭配酱). Her post featured numerous screenshots of various personality labels under celebrities’ names, saying: “When I woke up this morning, my whole newsfeed was covered in people’s personality labels.”

Many netizens were spurred into trying the app after seeing it spread through social media. Among many similar posts, user @Baby柒小柒 commented: “So many people on my newsfeed playing ‘Personality Label’, so I had to try it myself!”

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Others were anxious to point out flaws in the personality test after putting celebrity names in. One Weibo user (@裂缝中的阳光25) responded to Papi Jiang’s post: “The test result that I got for Zhang Yixing wasn’t the same, did you not put in the star sign? It seems like you got it wrong.”

Some of the even higher-rated comments under a news report by Sina Tech contained cautions by those who were more sceptical of the app’s intentions: “Viral apps are really annoying, and I have a small suspicion that they’re stealing people’s personal information,” one netizen said (@一只都放假).

User @UTOUU-仙参 agreed, writing: “Feel sick looking at this kind of stuff, who knows what information they collect and what they do with it behind the scenes?”

Amongst the mixed reviews, the app’s rapid rise to popularity has not entirely been smooth sailing. It was only shortly after the app was gaining steam that users began to be directed away from the page and presented with a warning that the site had been removed.

Sina Tech reported that despite the app soaring through the download charts from the 150th to the 10th place, it was later removed for violating WeChat community guidelines, sparking a debate on how WeChat responds to popular apps using its platform, as well as a discussion on whether they enforce their guidelines selectively.

Despite this hiccup, the app went online again at roughly 11:30pm on Sunday night, July 17th.

It is not yet known why WeChat decided to reverse their decision of removal – although parts of the app may have been modified to comply with existing guidelines.

As in the Weibo comments above, some users reported having to previously enter their star sign amongst other information, whereas the app now solely asks for a name and birth date. It seems that for now, this viral app is here to stay, provided it follows the rules. Whether netizens will continue to download it or not might just be a matter of personality.

By Cat Hanson

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Cat Hanson is a U.K. graduate of Chinese Studies now teaching and living in China. She swapped Beijing for Anhui, and runs her own blog on China life: Putong Press.

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China Digital

Didi Riders Can Now Have “Verified Party Members” Drive Them Around

Party-building 3.0? Didi has got it covered.

Manya Koetse

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This is Party-building in the new era: Didi now allows users of its Premier Car Service to let a verified Party member drive them to their destination.

On September 20, as the People’s Republic of China is nearing its 70th-anniversary celebrations, the country’s most popular taxi-hailing app Didi published an article on Weibo and WeChat explaining its verified Party Member Driver Program.

Recently, riders in Beijing may have noticed something different at Didi’s Premier Car service, which is called “Licheng” 礼橙专车 since June of last year.

Some of Licheng’s drivers now have a red background to their profile photos accompanied by a Communist Party emblem. Upon clicking the profile of these drivers, customers will see that this driver is a Party Member Driver (“党员司机”) – meaning that the Didi driver’s status as a Party member has been verified through Didi’s “Red Flag Steering Wheel” program (红旗方向盘项目) that was set up in November 2018.

Didi’s “Red Flag Steering Wheel” program (红旗方向盘项目) that was set up in November 2018. Image via Guancha.

Didi writes that these drivers can also be identified as Party members through the red sticker on the dashboard at the passenger side, which literally says “Party member driver.”

The article explains that the recent project is an effort to contribute to China’s Party-building in the digital era, and that Didi aims to establish a Party member community within its company.

This car is driven by a Party member (image via Didi/Weibo).

The company is apparently planning to make this community a lively one, as it promises to provide online and offline activities that will help these drivers stay up to date with the latest developments within the Party, and that will increase their “Party awareness.”

Starting this month, Didi will reportedly also offer “patriotic classes” to all of its drivers via its online classroom program.

China has more than 88 million Party members. Party membership does not come overnight; those who want to become a Communist Party member need to attend Party courses, pass written tests, be recommended by other members, and pass a screening (read more here).

As for now, riders cannot manually pick to have a Party member as their driver; a nearby driver will be automatically selected when they order a car – if it is a Party member, they will know straight away from the driver’s profile.

For now, Didi has set up “mobile Party branches” in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and a number of other cities.

On Weibo, some see the initiative as a marketing move from Didi’s side. “If you hear the driver is a Party member, you know it’s reliable. It’s a good thing.”

The past year was a tough year for Didi, after the murders of two young women by their Didi driver made national headlines, causing outrage and concerns about customer’s safety when hailing a car through the Didi company.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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“Don’t Download This App!” – A Top 10 of Harmful Chinese Apps

This latest top 10 of harmful Chinese apps comes amid a heightened media focus on mobile users and cybersecurity in China.

Jialing Xie

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Thousands of apps are available to China’s mobile users, but not all of them are safe. These apps were marked as harmful by Chinese state media this week.

On September 17, Chinese state media outlet Xinhua News Agency issued a top 10 list of harmful mobile apps. The list, published via various social media outlets, raised discussions online about the security risks of seemingly innocent and fun apps.

The top 10 list comes during China’s 2019 “Clean the Web” (净网) campaign, an ongoing nationwide initiative organized by Chinese authorities to clean China’s digital environment by eradicating pornography and ‘illegal publications’ (扫黄打非).

As the People’s Republic of China will soon celebrate its 70th anniversary, the “Clean the Web 2019” campaign is now in full swing.

According to China’s National Computer Virus Emergency Response Center (NCVERC), the 10 listed ‘harmful apps’ posing hazards related to illegal gambling, stealing personal data, and having in-app downloads without users’ permission.

The full list of harmful mobile apps (and their bugged versions) is as follows.

 

The following first four apps are accused of personal data breaches:

 

1. ‘Happy Eliminating’《开心消消消》(Version 1.1)

The app on the left (开心消消消) is very similar to another popular gaming app called Happy Elements (开心消消乐).

This gaming app (image on the left), is highly similar to another popular gaming app known as Xiaoxiaole or Happy Elements (开心消消乐) (on the right).

 

2. ‘Digule’《嘀咕乐》(Version 1.0.1)

App screenshots from SnapPea.

This app promises to offer free comics and offline downloads. The app presents itself as being “non-ads interference” on the Android Market.

 

3. ‘Mifeng Yx’《蜜蜂优选》(Version 2.4.2)

This app helps users to get discount from popular online shopping sites such as Tmall and Taobao.

 

4. ‘Yangling Travel’《杨凌旅游》

This is a travel app that offers a wealth of information related to self-guided tours, travel tips, and hotel booking services.

 

The following apps have been labeled as ‘harmful’ for containing malware; their plug-ins and bundles drain users’ cellular data by downloading promotional ads and mobile apps in the background without permission:

 

5. ‘Zhijiao YXY’《职教云学院》(Version 1.0.2)

Zhijiao YXY is an online teaching platform for vocational education.

 

6. ‘Fashion Snap’《时尚快拍》(Version 3.6.72)

Fashion Snap is a beauty camera and photo editor tool.

 

7. ‘Watermark Images’《水印修图》(Version 4.0.91)

This is another photo editor tool featuring photo watermark add-ons.

 

These last three apps were linked with gambling activities by Chinese state media, or have security vulnerabilities making users susceptible to financial losses:

 

8. ‘Cute Puppy Go Home’《萌犬回家》(Version 2.0)

This is an app that matches pets with potential adopters.

 

9. Guess-emoji-challenge (Version 1.1)

As its name indicates, this is a mobile gaming app all about emoji guessing.

 

10. Warehouse Manager《仓库管家》(Version 1.0.1)

This is a warehouse management application.

(Note that we found two additional apps with the exact same name on AppAdvice, both are described as warehouse management applications – so for now, it is not clear which one of the three is the one referred to by Xinhua, and how it is associated with gambling.)

 

In addition to warning Chinese mobile users about the aforementioned versions of the 10 apps, Chinese media also spread the NCVERS’s advise in recommending netizens to use “real-time monitoring” anti-virus apps to help detect malware carried by illegal and harmful apps. 

In response to the report on the harmful apps, SinaTech News launched a poll on Weibo asking people what unwanted side functions mobile apps they dreaded the most.

At the time of writing, a majority (48.7%) of the 77,000 people participating in the poll indicated that “collecting user data without permission” is one of the things they loathe the most.

With China’s Cybersecurity Week kicking off earlier this month, there’s recently been an increased (social) media focus on cybersecurity in China.

This week, Chinese cybersecurity experts warned social media users not to post photos of themselves doing a V-sign gesture, since criminals could possibly abuse their fingerprint data.

The Chinese app Zao also sparked major privacy concerns in China earlier this month. The app, that was released on August 30, allows users to play with face-swapping and “deepfake” effects. There were soon concerns about the app’s questionable privacy policy, which stated it had “free, irrevocable, permanent, transferable, and relicenseable” rights to all user-generated content (also see The Guardian).

By now, the hashtag ‘Ten Lawbreaking & Harmful Apps” (#十款违法有害App#) has received over 130 million views on Weibo.

“This is a time for all of us to be concerned,” one Weibo blogger writes, with others agreeing: “I think all apps are collecting our data nowadays.”

But not all people seem to be so worried: “Weibo, WeChat, and Baidu – I’d say those apps are really harmful! They are harmful because they make me waste so many hours of my day.”

Read more about Chinese apps here.

By Jialing Xie

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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