In a nation where privacy protections are considered weak and anything-goes information collection has become the norm, Chinese tech entrepreneur Yang Geng stands out. His service, LeakZero, helps people surf online anonymously, protect passwords, and deliver encrypted messages. By design, he can not find out the names of the app’s users and even know how many there are. It doesn’t have a so-called ‘back door.’ Yang and the users of his platform are fighting an uphill and unusual battle for privacy in a region where the federal government is deeply involved in Big Data, and corporations have done little to withstand.
Tech sector executives have described the nation’s residents as less sensitive about privacy than their Western equivalents, with Chinese search engine giant chief Robin Li saying in 2018 that many in China were willing to trade it for comfort, safety or effectivity.
However, that viewpoint has triggered debate about the consequences of access, with rising concern over the illegal assortment of personal information and the rise of a black market for the same.
The Chinese government has strengthened data safety laws; however, international encrypted messaging apps like KakaoTalk and Line are outlawed in China while others, like Whatsapp or Signal, are sometimes blocked.
The most extensively used homegrown services, Internet titan, Tencent’s messaging app WeChat, and search engine Baidu are closely watched and censored by the Chinese government.
The Cyberspace Department of China didn’t reply to a request for comment.
Yang and users of LeakZero, which works with different companies’ messaging apps and e-mail platforms, say they’re aiming to find another method.
Hu Zhicheng, 23, who makes use of the company’s search engine, password manager, and encrypted messaging platform, said the proliferation of targeted advertising showed how much of his private information had been gathered.