Is the rhetoric and sensationalism that shaped the presidential election making us all paranoid? I think so. Is such paranoia behind security experts’ suspicion of Chinese selfie app Meitu? That’s less clear.
On the surface, Meitu couldn’t look more harmless. Popular among Chinese consumers for years, the app specializes in filters, which -- like Snapchat -- let users augment their images with softer skin, glossy makeup, and the like.
Also, having recently gone public in Hong Kong, it makes perfect sense for Meitu to be pursuing expansion in lucrative markets like the States.
That’s where things get tricky, however. As Meitu begins to gain traction among U.S. consumers, security professionals like Greg Linares are warning them to be wary of the app.
The issue? Well, the app is a data hog. Beyond that, before you can access the free service, you must give Meitu access to information about your other apps, your physical location, your call information, and WiFi connections.
Of course, many U.S.-based companies demand that users fork over similarly sensitive info in exchange for accessing their apps. Ask any security pro, and they’ll tell you that Facebook -- one the most popular apps among U.S. mobile users -- is particularly intrusive.
So, it begs the question: Is Meitu being so scrutinized because it’s a Chinese company, and -- partly due to our president-elect’s bombast -- we’ve developed such a bias against the Eastern power?
The bigger question is how much personal information we as consumers are willing to give -- and how much we should give -- to companies, regardless of their national origin.