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24 July


PUBG Mobile’s Chinese version gets called out for failing to protect user privacy

Players of Peacekeeper Elite, a sanitised version of PUBG Mobile in China, have so far spent US$1.9 billion on the game

Peacekeeper Elite Photo: Tencent

/NOVOSTIVL/ A number of popular mobile games in China have been called out for not properly protecting user privacy, including one of the biggest mobile games in the world: Tencent’s Peacekeeper Elite, the Chinese version of PUBG Mobile.

Peacekeeper Elite, also known as Game for Peace, is an incredibly lucrative title for game developer Tencent. But China’s National Computer Virus Emergency Response Centre (CVERC) says the game doesn’t clearly state all the permissions it accesses on a user’s phone, state-owned media outlet Xinhua reported. The organisation says the app also doesn’t offer an effective way for users to change or remove personal information or delete their accounts.

Other mobile games called out by CVERC include Talking Tom Gold Run, My Talking Tom and My Talking Angela, three games from Slovenian developer Outfit7. Two Chinese games similar to Candy Crush were also named, along with Temple Run 2 and Plants vs. Zombies 2.

Tencent, Outfit 7, Temple Run 2 maker Imangi Studios and Plants vs. Zombies 2 publisher Electronic Arts did not respond to our requests for comment.

CVERC said all these games have problems with how they handle user privacy, but they were named for different offences. The Talking Tom franchise, for instance, made the list because the games either didn’t ask first-time users to read the privacy policy in an obvious way, such as through a pop-up message, or made agreeing to the privacy policy the default choice. CVERC said the games also didn’t list the purpose, method and scale of user data collection, on top of the problems found in Peacekeeper Elite.

CVERC is warning users to be cautious about these apps that are “against laws and regulations”, in reference to China’s 2017 cybersecurity law, according to Xinhua.

The results are part of a broader internet clean-up campaign, a regular occurrence in China when internet regulators purge “harmful” material online, such as pornographic content. The campaigns have also been used to single out and punish some people who use VPNs to hop the country’s Great Firewall, the mechanism China uses to block international websites.

Regulators announced an ongoing clean-up campaign for 2020 earlier this year. In July, authorities said that they had shut down more than 12,000 websites in the first half of the year.

PUBG Mobile continues to be the world’s highest grossing mobile game, raking in US$3.5 billion to date, according to Sensor Tower. More than half of that revenue comes from the Chinese version. PUBG Mobile was changed to Peacekeeper Elite in China last year to offer gamers a censored version without blood and other content deemed objectionable in the country. The move finally allowed Tencent to monetise the game in its home market.