Chinese internet giant Tencent recently is accusing the leading smartphone maker Huawei of capturing its data and violating the privacy of WeChat users, meanwhile it asks the Chinese government to intervene in the incident. On the other side, Huawei, instead of admitting infringement of user privacy, indicates that all user activity data collected are under the authorization of app user.
Huawei promotes its artificial intelligence-based service while Tencent’s WeChat is the widely used instant messaging app in China. Tencent spotted Huawei used the “Honor Magic” app to collect user data to build artificial intelligence, including the user’s message content to recommend the restaurant. The acting of the app, according to Tencent, seized the data of Tencent while violated the privacy of WeChat users.
As for our understanding, user activity data is one of the important data. The acquired data will reveal the user’s “lifestyle and consumption” habits. The data can be used by business organizations to target specific products and services.
However, Huawei is in “a difficult communication” with WeChat, and the sides have not reached a consensus, citing an anonymous insider from Huawei. Tencent said it maintains good communication and cooperation with all phone makers, carriers and app developers to build a healthy ecosystem.
Mobile Internet App Vendor vs. Instant Messaging Operator
On the nature, Huawei-Tencent battle is only on behalf of small-scale clash and friction between mobile phone HUAWEI glory Magic and instant messaging platform WeChat, which even cannot be called a real big data war. It is easy to find that both sides are conservative and disciplined in the issue—Huawei starts experimenting with a mobile phone with small shipments while Tencent fine tunes the interface in response.
From the industrial point of view, Huawei’s small-scale experiment gives so much significance to user data collection. It can be regarded as a positive attempt to break WeChat’s monopoly of instant messaging channel in China.
As is known to everyone, WeChat has been the largest infrastructure of instant messaging, not only in China but also around the world, with almost all instant communication occurring on it. Tencent, as the developer as well as owner of WeChat, has benefited from the monopolistic user data bonuses over the past years. This is of great importance to the establishment of WeChat User & Business Ecosystem but is on the cost of other mobile internet applications losing opportunities to fairly receive the user data benefits.
No mobile internet application can offer users products and services through WeChat instant messaging channel without the help of an operating system vendor or a mobile phone manufacturer. Though WeChat argues that it developes many solutions to solve the problem, including Official Accounts, Mini Programs and Open Hardware Platform, it leaves quite a small space for other mobile internet applications to survive and grow.
It is easy to understand why Alipay and iFLYTEK are partnering with Huawei to provide WeChat chat scene-based apps when the latter has access to WeChat instant messaging channel without the permission of Tencent.
It seems that Huawei-Tencent battle superficially is just a dispute over user data usage and privacy between the two tech giants. At its core, the argument refers to all mobile internet app vendors and instant messaging operators in China.