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[libreplanet-discuss] The (Amost) Everything WeChat App

From: Mary-Anne Wolf
Subject: [libreplanet-discuss] The (Amost) Everything WeChat App
Date: Thu, 18 Aug 2016 19:54:45 +0000 (UTC)

This is a video about an app in China, WeChat, which combines the functionality 
(and thus the collected information) of multiple apps and websites as many 
people use them in the USA.

While general privacy issues in existing apps and websites are not news to fans 
of Libre software, the seriousness in more pervasive corporate and government 
snooping within a single very large app might be news.

While it would be possible to design a crypto-currency-like or torrent-like 
system which would make collecting unencryptable data about end users 
technically impossible, offering such a thing gratis to its users might be a 
problem for keeping bills paid without having any information to sell.  Yet one 
would be competing against gratis apps that sell collected information.  That 
is not to mention the possibility of different corporations exchanging and 
integrating the information they collect, before they acquire each other.

Also not to mention that the governments who surveil their citizens and 
residents using the collected data might make privacy respecting alternatives 
illegal.  Certainly people planning bombings, fraud, and other crimes that most 
of us would agree should be crimes, would want to use the privacy so that they 
are not discovered.  Governments somehow ignore that criminals use cars, cell 
phones, and airlines to do their deeds as well.  There is already a precedent 
for government attacking technology used for recreational drug sales.  It seems 
that some kinds of businesses are more equal than others if criminals use their 

So, what would a libre solution to this combination of problems look like?  
Could privacy be a differentiator to talk enough people out of the Big Brother 
all-pervasive apps?  Would enough potential end users even care enough to 
change what they use?

If something in the USA evolved to be as pervasive as WeChat, would a 
privacy-respecting alternative even be practical?  Some other countries have 
more sensible laws about privacy.  Would it work better to start that 
technology somewhere else?  But would Americans be allowed to use it?


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