If you ever wanted to become an Anime character, Meitu, the Chinese popular selfie-editing application, is now winning ground outside of China and can give you the chance. But beware: if you run it, your data might end up with the Chinese government, security specialists warn.
Although the app has been around since 2008 and claims to have 456 million unique users, Meitu has only recently become popular in the US, following tweets that showed Donald Trump pics with beauty filters provided by Meitu.
However the app is not only about taking a photo and applying some filters to make you look like a cartoon character, security experts are concerned about the large amount of data it collects from users, which it allegedly sells to third parties.
Sure, pretty much all apps ask for permission to access certain information on the phone, but Meitu wants information it doesn’t actually need, such as location, phone calls, Internet and Wi-Fi activity, SMS messages, contacts, calendars and the phone’s serial number.
“Its data gobbling is similar to a line of low-end cell phones sold in the U.S. that researchers found to contain a backdoor that sent data to China every 72 hours,” according to Fortune.com.
Meitu officials denied the accusations, claiming they only want “to optimize app performance, its effects and features, and to better understand our consumer engagement with in-app advertisements,” according to a Sina news report. “Meitu does not sell user data in any form.”
Data privacy and protection of personal data have been hot topics in recent years because big data is not only valuable to advertisers, but also to governments and other organizations. If you have to provide access to information on your phone, check if you can limit the number of permissions. In some cases, although the app asks for more information than it needs, you can easily reduce it to a minimum by unchecking the boxes selected automatically.