Meitu, a beautifying photo app from a Chinese company called Meitu, has gone viral. It’s everywhere right now, and you may even have downloaded it yourself. However, Meitu asks for a lot of app permissions, and is collecting masses of data on its users. Which is worrying.
Occasionally, an app explodes in popularity, lurching from relative obscurity to worldwide acclaim. Think Flappy Bird, Prisma, and even Snapchat back in the day. The latest app to enjoy this fortunate fate is Meitu, which turns your selfies into “beautiful” anime characters.
The Problem With Meitu
The problem with Meitu is it’s collecting way more data on its users than is necessary or normal. The permissions required to download and install Meitu are virtually neverending. And once you have given Meitu permission, the app will collect extensive data from your phone.
This allegedly includes, but isn’t limited to, seeing what other apps you have running, and their unique device identifier numbers (IMSIs), your calendar, your contacts, your messages, your calls, your device’s IMEI number, and whether or not you’re running a jailbroken iPhone.
It’s important to remember that most free apps collect data on their users and then sell it onto advertisers. That is, after all, how they make money. However, Meitu appears to have gone further than most, seeking permission to collect far more data than can be deemed reasonable.
We don’t yet know what Meitu is doing, or planning to do, with all that data it’s collecting. But that’s almost immaterial at this point. The very fact Meitu is collecting so much data, and that users are happy to allow it to do so, is the real worry.
There’s Money In Them Thar Apps
Despite its new-found fame in the West, Meitu is already massively popular in Asia, and has been for years. The company behind it, also called Meitu, has a whole roster of apps available. Which is why it was valued at $4.6 billion when it IPO’d in Hong Kong in December 2016. Which just shows how much value there is in all that lovely data users willingly leak.
For those who want to check this app out for themselves, Meitu is available to download now on Android and on iOS [No longer available]. And a Meitu spokesperson has issued a statement to CNET suggesting that this is all an overblown storm in a China-shaped teacup.
Have you already installed Meitu? Did you take any notice of the app permissions? Are you at all bothered by the amount of data Meitu is collecting? Will this information stop you from using Meitu in the future? Please let us know in the comments below!