Censorship of COVID-19 keywords. (via citizenlab.ca)
WeChat operates from China under Chinese law, which includes strong censorship provisions and interception protocols. Its parent company is obliged to share data with the Chinese government under the China Internet Security Law and National Intelligence Law. WeChat can access and expose the text messages, contact books, and location histories of its users. Due to WeChat's popularity, the Chinese government uses WeChat as a data source to conduct mass surveillance in China.
Some states and regions such as India, Australia, the United States, and Taiwan fear that the app poses a threat to national or regional security for various reasons.
In Jun 2013, the Indian Intelligence Bureau flagged WeChat for security concerns. India has debated whether or not they should ban WeChat for the possibility that too much personal information and data could be collected from its users. In Taiwan, legislators were concerned that the potential exposure of private communications was a threat to regional security.
In May 2020, Citizen Lab published a study which claimed that WeChat monitors foreign chats to hone its censorship algorithms.
On Aug 14, 2020, Gao Zhigang, a citizen of Taiyuan city, Shanxi Province, China, used WeChat to forward a video to his friend Geng Guanjun in the USA. Gao was later convicted on the charge of the crime “picking quarrels and provoking troubles”, and sentenced to ten months imprisonment.
The Court documents show that China's network management and propaganda departments directly monitor WeChat users, and the Chinese police used big data facial technology to identify Geng Guanjun as an overseas democracy activist.
In Sep 2020, Chevron Corporation mandated that its employees delete WeChat from company-issued phones.