Twitter, Google, Facebook, WhatsApp and Telegram have all announced they will not be a party to oppression and will not cooperate with Hong Kong police department which requested user information of their clients. A number of countries have criticized China for introducing a new security law which they consider a tool to jeopardized the autonomous status of the territory.
Apple and other giants are expected to follow the suit. While the other firms are blocked in mainland China, the under-pressure Apple currently enjoys the access to the big Chinese market. Meanwhile, Facebook, Twitter and Google generate revenue from ad-serving Chinese clients. Apple complied with the most of requests it received from Hong Kong authorities between January and June in the absence of the new security law.
Microsoft which also maintains a strong presence in China has previously provided Hong Kong’s government with the user data has not announced a change in its policy.
London-based Chatting application Telegram was first to announced the boycott of cooperation.
“We understand the right of privacy of our Hong Kong users,” the firm revealed to Hong Kong Free Press on Sunday.
“Accordingly, Telegram does not intend to process any data requests related to tis Hong Kong users until an international consensus is reached in relation to the ongoing political changes in the city.”
Following the course, Facebook said it would consider to pause the requests, “pending further assessment” of the human rights issues. No personal information was released from the its Hong Kong offices, it further added.
“We believe freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions,” the social media giant said.
WhatsApp which is also a flagship property of Facebook said it “believes in the right for people to have a private conversation online” and “we remain committed to providing private and secure messaging services to our users in Hong Kong”.
Both platforms are banned in mainland China but are operating in the much-liberated special administrative autonomous region under Chinese control. Google disclosed that it stopped the production on any new data requests after the new rules came into effect last week.
“We will continue to review the details of the new law,” a spokeswoman told the BBC. Twitter said it acted no different.
WhatsApp and Facebook
WhatsApp offers end-to-end encryption as a default feature meaning it cannot read, or share with police officers the chat between its two or more users. While, Facebook Messenger has not yet introduced by default encryption and its users have to enable it manually. Both platforms however maintain that they may disclose user data upon request by the authorities of a country complying with the law of the land. But WhatsApp in its policies states that any successful request for obtaining the information must meet “internationally recognized standards including human rights, due process, and the rule of law”.
In the United States, the sister platforms (FB and WhatsApp) require a special request from authorities to provide “basic subscriber records” such as person’s name, IP address and email address. Any extra information may be extracted by an authority after a court order while a search warrant is required for account contents. Facebook contents include posts, texts, images and videos, and location information while that of WhatsApp includes photos, group info and contacts.