Meitu Offers Perfect Selfies at Cost of Your Privacy

Millions of us are on the quest for the perfect selfie.  For celebrities like Kim Kardashian West, it’s her business.  For the average person, it’s a way to communicate with the rest of the world.  We invest countless hours altering our selfies until they’re perfect.  We’re even willing to shell out money for apps that help us get there faster, and sometimes even smartphone addons that will make our selfies just that little bit better.  Meitu is a makeover app that users can download for free.  However, the ultimate cost might be their privacy.

What Is Meitu?

meitu retouch example
Courtesy of Meitu

Meitu is the latest in a series of apps promising to make you look like a cover model.  The app offers a virtual beauty counter, airbrushing and anime makeover features.  It’s one of the most popular apps in China.  The latter feature—the ability to make yourself over into an anime character—has led to claims of racism.  Twitter users have accused the app’s developers of promoting ‘yellowface’.

However, claims of racism aren’t Meitu’s biggest problem.

Big Security Risks

Users must give Meitu a lot of access to reap all its benefits.  The app tracks your location, IP address and even your mobile carrier info.  This is all designed to create a unique code for you.  It then uses that code to determine the best set of ads for your app experience.  Meitu asks users if some of this is okay.  But this only happens after you’ve downloaded it.

Android users are the most vulnerable to this secret data collection.  To protect themselves, they must manually access their phone’s app permissions and uncheck any that feel intrusive.  Still, iOS users should be aware and dig into their permissions.

According to WIRED, these kinds of privacy violations are happening more often than we know.  We could potentially expose our private information just to use our favorite apps.

Meitu maintains that it’s only tracking its users for ad purposes.  It’s not selling personal data for profit.  And the data that it does collect is securely sent to its advertisers.

Despite the reassurance, several sources have reported on the problem, urging users to be leery of Meitu and any other app that dives deeply in their digital worlds.

The controversy could prove problematic for the tech brand.  The company was recently valued at $5.2 billion during its Hong Kong IPO in December.  If this privacy debacle leads to a loss in consumer confidence, it could pull the wind out of Meitu’s sails.