For all of you who have visited China in the recent internet age, you’re well aware of the fact that you can’t access foreign sites while you’re in the country. The Great Firewall, as they call it, has blocked off sites like Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and all the other apps that were not developed in China.
However, China isn’t as backward in terms of the internet as other countries. They’ve developed similar apps that function pretty much the same way as Facebook and Google, and the like. But since these sites were developed and are used in an entirely different environment, they have evolved to suit the needs of their users.
China's power in terms of internet technology is as vast as North Korea's is limiting.
China may have once been known for its knock-off version of goods, but now they’re known for developing apps with features the rest of the world wants! One example of WeChat. Think of an app that functions like Facebook, Instagram, Skype, Amazon, Uber, and more all in one. It even has functions that we don’t have apps for like one for booking hospital appointments, investing services, heat maps to show the weather, and even a function that lets you see how crowded a certain place is.
So how groundbreaking is this variety of apps all rolled into one? Chatting with your friends, inviting them to a restaurant, all of you booking cabs, one of you making reservations and placing orders, all using one app. And once you get there, you take pictures, write a review, pay the restaurant online, and book cabs home. All of these functions are done without you, your friends, the cabs you booked, and the restaurant ever leaving the app!
Imagine going online, checking your messages, making reservations, booking a cab, transferring money, while using only one app!
And that’s not all. WeChat’s numerous functions allows them to collect a huge amount of data all about you. Now multiply that by the 700 million users that use WeChat, and you have a gigantic database of every user’s online behavior, such as what you’re interested in, who your friends are, what you talk about, what you like to do, how you spend your money, and more!
This is extremely useful for advertisers, and quite convenient for the users. But here’s the catch: all that data can be forwarded to the government of China, which, as we know, has had a track record of some privacy and human rights violations.
So how does this affect you, as a user? For one thing, western companies are now looking to replicate an app like WeChat, where all you need is one app and one account to do everything you do online – from browsing to social media use to shopping to online banking. This is extremely convenient. But on the flip side, it also allows these companies to amass a staggering amount of data about you.
Now the question is, are you comfortable with that?
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