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China's regulator orders face-swap app ZAO to strengthen security over privacy, payment concerns

Zhu Shenshen
After recent controversy, industry watchdog requires the maker of a popular face-swap app to conduct self-checks and abide by rules of user-data collection.
Zhu Shenshen

China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has ordered the developer of popular face-swap application ZAO to enhance data and privacy protections for its users, according to a statement posted on the regulator's website on Wednesday.

ZAO’s developer, social network company MoMo, is required to conduct self-checks, gather user data according to national laws and regulations, regulate its user agreements and strengthen users' security. It should also take steps to avoid the risk of ZAO being used in telecommunications and online fraud, the ministry said.

On Tuesday, ZAO acknowledged and apologized for recent privacy and payment security concerns.

ZAO became the subject of controversy recently, when an earlier version of its user agreement gave its makers broad rights to content uploaded and created by users.

“We apologize for causing doubts and troubles,” ZAO's operations team said on Weibo.

ZAO lets users replace the faces of celebrities in scenes from films and television shows, such as Titanic and Game of Thrones, with their own.

The recently-launched app went viral over the weekend, becoming the most popular app in China’s iOS store.

The ministry will also require similar firms to strengthen data and privacy protection and fight against online crime, including telecommunications frauds, it added.

In 2019, China’s spending on IT security is expected to hit US$7.35 billion, according to IDC, a US-based research firm.

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