Angry WeChat users are raising concerns about the security and privacy of their accounts, after a number of 'vendors' with online shops on Taobao claimed they can surreptitiously retrieve deleted messages from any phones' WeChat account.
The Beijing News on Sunday reported that vendors on Taobao, one of China's giant e-commerce platforms, need only a mobile phone to be able to recover messages that account holders had previously deleted from the Tencent messaging app WeChat, which has close to a billion monthly active users.
One of the Taobao vendors told the Global Times that he is only able to retrieve deleted messages that remain buried on a person's phone, and they are not recovered from WeChat's online cloud. The company has previously said it doesn't store users' messages.
The vendor said for just 10 yuan ($1.57) he will send people a file that will allow them to recover deleted messages simply by connecting their phone to a computer.
The vendor claimed there was no need to know the phone owners' WeChat username and password, and the phone owner will never know that the deleted messages had been recovered to a computer.
Netizens expressed concern over the report and accused WeChat of failing to protect their privacy.
WeChat did not respond to interview requests by the Global Times as of press time.
WeChat issued a statement in late April claiming the tech firm did not save users' data for big data analysis.
The statement came after an anti-corruption taskforce of Chaohu, East China's Anhui Province, boasted that it had made a breakthrough in an investigation of a corruption case by "retrieving" WeChat messages that had been deleted on a suspect's phone.
Tencent's security expert was quoted by the Beijing News as saying that records on messaging apps, texts and contact information can also be recovered after being deleted.
The only way to get rid of data for good is to destroy the cell phone, experts told the Beijing News.