(LifeSite) A popular new shopping app is the authoritarian Chinese government’s latest front for collecting the personal data of Americans and Europeans, according to China watchdogs and cybersecurity experts.
Politico reports that Temu, the Western version of Chinese e-commerce platform Pinduoduo, began operating in the United States in fall 2022 and spread to several European nations earlier this year, has rapidly won fans since for offering a wide range of products at significant discounts.
Temu, owned by PDD Holdings in Shanghai, automatically tracks and collects user information such as location and combines it with information available from other sources such as government agencies, social networks, and marketing companies, for potential sharing with its parent company and other affiliates.
In March, Google suspended Pinduoduo from its app store upon the discovery of malicious software within the app, while Apple suspended Temu for misleading language about what data it can access and not giving users the option to refuse to allow themselves to be tracked across the internet (Apple allowed the app to return earlier this month after resolving those issues).
“It looks to me like they don’t have a form of reporting vulnerabilities,” said cybersecurity engineer Laurie Mercer with HackerOne. “They don’t have any transparency over their security testing and those would all raise red flags for me.”
“The app was quite complex to look into and has obfuscations, making the code difficult to analyze, which could indicate that they have something to hide,” added cybersecurity analyst Jeroen Becker of the firm NVISO.
That something, Population Research Institute founder Steven Mosher contends, is data collection on behalf of the Chinese regime’s Communist leaders.
“The Chinese Communist Party is engaged in a massive data collection effort all around the world trying to collect information especially not on Americans but all citizens of the world but all seven plus billion of us,” Mosher told Fox News Channel’s Charlie Hurt in an interview over the weekend. “But putting into giant supercomputers using AI to factor out weaknesses and strengths especially of America, the principal target. Everybody needs to understand, the 50 million people especially who downloaded the Temu app need to understand that they are the products here.”
“There are no private companies in China,” Mosher stressed.