The latest scandal involving WPS Office highlights the problem Chinese tech companies are facing.
When using word processing software, users are looking for privacy protection and reliability. Users of China-based Kingsoft’s WPS Office have reason to be concerned on both fronts after the latest PR turmoil.
early last month, a Chinese novelist raised a privacy breach concern about WPS Office, a word processing software that stores files in the cloud. The author accused the China-based company of “spying” and removing locally saved content, and reported that she was unable to access a draft of her novel due to allegedly illegal content. After initially denying the allegationsKingsoft then issued another awkward statement citing China Cyber Security Law and defend the company’s decision to censor the content of the document.
According to its latest communications, Kingsoft admitted that it has the ability to access documents and remove sensitive content, but declined to provide details on any censorship activities. On the same day it released the statement, Kingsoft also announced a plan to permanently remove ads from the free version of its WPS suite. at the end of 2023. The experts sees the bold move as a critical step for Kingsoft to regain user trust amid the public relations crisis.
The company’s bizarre crisis management strategy revealed the situation facing Kingsoft, caught between its public relations and its government relations.
Founded in 1989, WPS Office has become an alternative to Microsoft Office Suite in China. Navigating political risks and the large user base in China, WPS has achieved significant results with its office suite software. In 2021, Kingsoft made a profit of 1.04 billion Chinese renminbi with its WPS suite. From the company’s perspective, the latest censorship concerns could decimate its billions of potential profits.
But Kingsoft has limited options for damage control. The company’s latest statement mentioned China’s Cyber Security Law, implying that Kingsoft has no choice but to follow the Chinese government in carrying out censorship. At the same time, it is detrimental for Kingsoft to raise this critical requirement publicly, as talking about the elephant in the room will cause significant harm to the operation of the business in China. Users are alert to the possibility of their private documents being read and potentially censored.
Privacy invasions against users are eerily common among Chinese tech companies. Popular internet products like wechat Y tik tok (known as Douyin in China) have previously been singled out by researchers and media outlets for surveillance and privacy concerns. And these privacy and data breach issues are happening both inside and outside China’s borders. In jurisdictions such as the United States and Canada, questions about those apps are being raised by Public institutions Y the military.
Founded in China, apps and software like WeChat, TikTok, and WPS Office often face direct orders from Chinese authorities to engage in political censorship and information disclosure. However, those political and government influences do not stop when companies like Tencent, Bytedance or Kingsoft expand their business abroad. Despite having business entities outside of China and engaging in non-political interactions with new stakeholders in other jurisdictions, Chinese tech companies continue to face pressure from the Chinese government, making their products subject to Chinese laws and regulations. of the local jurisdiction.
For Chinese companies with a vision to dominate the global market, the struggle to comply with Chinese laws, regardless of where they operate, becomes an issue that threatens to cause irreversible damage. TikTok, one of the most successful global mobile apps owned by a Chinese company, continues to face questions about its shady data and privacy practices, intensified by the geopolitical fight between China and democratic countries. TikTok previously survived a Trump-era executive order ban in 2020, but the app now faces questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee and the US Federal Communications Commission about espionage concerns.
While the company has adamantly denied any wrongdoing, the evidence from Bytedance and similar tech companies shows no positive signs for their business prospects in the US. All Chinese companies caught between political and compliance fights have limited tools to address those problems.