QQ vs. 360 vs. the Media vs. Common Sense

The media has been all in a tizzy about the latest example of terrible, terrible PR in China (and for once, it isn’t coming from the government). For those who haven’t been following, here’s the short version: 360, a popular Chinese internet security company, accused Tencent QQ, the world’s most popular instant messaging service, of serious security vulnerabilities including the ability to secretly scan the hard drives of users. What followed has been a great example of how not to conduct PR on both sides of the divide.

But in the scrum to cover the PR and the potential business implications, everyone seems to be ignoring the most obvious question, which is: does QQ really contain such serious security flaws?

No one seems to care! This question is at the crux of this disagreement, and the answer to it has gigantic ramifications given the ridiculously huge nature of QQ’s user base. But no one is reporting on it.

For example: this, this, this, this, this, this etc. There are lots of angles, but none that address whether any of the claims being thrown back and forth are true or not.

In fact, the only thing I could find that addresses the issue is this (via @klukoff), an unofficial test that claims to affirm at least some of 360’s accusations about QQ by using a Microsoft product that monitors what other software is doing. But that was posted nearly a week ago. Why is no one else addressing the veracity of these claims? True, the PR angle is interesting, but what about the is-the-most-popular-IM-software-in-the-world-secretly-spying-on-all-its-users angle?

Admittedly, I don’t know how easy this stuff is to test, but I get the impression no one has called any experts and tried, otherwise we’d at least see sentences like “experts were unable to immediately confirm 360’s allegations” popping up in a couple articles, right? Also admittedly, I haven’t had time to do a very thorough search of Chinese-language reporting on the topic yet, so I’m not sure whether the Chinese media is having a similar problem, although I suspect they are.

Seriously, this is kind of ridiculous. Would it be “unbalanced” to get an independent evaluation that supported one side or the other? Is it to difficult to find capable tech experts willing to talk to the media? Or am I just alone in caring more about whether or not QQ is actually spying than I care about whether or not 360 and QQ are acting in their users’ best interests?

They probably aren’t. I just wonder if the media is really doing any better.

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0 thoughts on “QQ vs. 360 vs. the Media vs. Common Sense”

  1. QQ has admitted to doing the scans that 360 is referring to, but just claims that they actually take a lot less information than 360 says they do. Impossible to prove whether they actually take the info, but independent verification shows that they could take the info if they wanted to:

    http://www.motherboard.tv/2010/11/4/china-s-biggest-chat-client-spying-on-users–2

    I’ve seen that info elsewhere but that was the main thing that popped up on a quick google search. This info is out there, though it should be on the “papers of record” instead of obscure tech blogs and Chinese translation sites.

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  2. I recall having read in the chinasmack article that tengxun gave the source code to a third party to prove that they weren’t doing anything illegal.

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  3. From what I’ve read and heard from the Chinese, it’s pretty much assumed that Tencent/QQ can and does “spy” on its users. Therefore, I’m not sure it’s really a big gaping hole that is mysteriously not being addressed.

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  4. More to the point, all major digital media in whatever geographpic location, share info/spy on their customers for govt security organisations post 9/11. Formal or informal arrangements …. whatever. It goes without saying. Just that arrangements in the PRC are a ton more efficient tech-wise and seriously institutionalised across govt departments. If your mission statement is the destruction of the existing order, throw your laptops and mobiles in the bin and return to old fashioned letters.

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  5. I think Skype took a lot more flak when it was revealed that the Chinese Tom.com version was filtering and tracking key words from chat messages. I guess when a Chinese company does something similar, it’s just par for the course.

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  6. I live in SZ and I have had the opportunity to speak with a number of Tencent employees; none of them work in a relevant department for discussing QQ’s actual vs. publicly stated policy on this issue, but some of them admitted that QQ of course takes information (without specifying details), BUT interestingly pointed out that 360 takes just as much as QQ does. A statement that has been corroborated by several friends to the extent of saying “probably.”

    What I’m curious about is where the war actually sprang from.

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  7. Don’t use any chinese software, because they are full of malware and viruses. It is the chinese developer fault, because they never make a good program without spying their customer and more badly they do it with purpose.

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