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Chinese authorities claim they can read deleted WeChat messages

WeChat's creators would beg to differ, though.
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NurPhoto via Getty Images

China is clearly fond of its far-reaching surveillance, but it's making some particularly boastful claims. An anti-corruption watchdog in Hefei claimed that a division in a nearby city managed to obtain a "series of deleted WeChat conversations" from one of its suspects. Supposedly, the scrapped chats let investigators question other participants and discipline them. Officials deleted the post on April 29th, but it had already sparked a minor panic on social networks -- did this mean the government could dig through your chat history at will?

Not necessarily. WeChat's creator, Tencent, denied storing or studying any chat histories. Like some other messaging services (such as WhatsApp), messages are supposed to remain solely on your phone or PC. Australia's military banned WeChat over security fears back in March, but that appears to have stemmed more from solidarity with US policy on Chinese companies instead of specific concerns.

We'd take the claim with a grain of salt. It's entirely possible that the watchdog was exaggerating its abilities, or misinterpreted its evidence gathering. However, the very fact that people are entertaining the idea speaks volumes about China's approach to surveillance. It hates the thought that any data might be outside its reach, and it's willing to go to great lengths to ensure it can collect that data.

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