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China’s Temu cancels advertising campaign amid concerns over the use of personal data

ByYasmeeta Oon

Apr 8, 2024
China's Temu cancels advertising campaign amid concerns over the use of personal data

China’s Temu cancels advertising campaign amid concerns over the use of personal data

In a surprising turn of events, Temu, the Chinese online marketplace giant, announced on March 30 that it will discontinue a contentious advertising strategy across England and France. This decision came after widespread criticism over privacy concerns related to the campaign. Initially launched last month, the promotion offered clients up to €100 in vouchers for downloading the Temu shopping app and encouraging another person to sign up. However, the offer came with a significant catch: participants had to agree to provide Temu with perpetual access to a wide array of their personal data.

The terms of the offer raised eyebrows for stipulating that Temu, owned by Chinese discount retailer Pinduoduo, could utilize, indefinitely and without prior notification, considerable personal information of the participants. The details, as outlined, included the use of participants’ photographs, names, voices, opinions, biographical information, and more, for promotional or advertising purposes globally.

This promotion sparked a heated debate, particularly after British news outlet The Independent shed light on the expansive nature of the data rights Temu claimed. According to The Independent, the terms and conditions explicitly stated that Temu could employ the “photo, name likeness, voice, opinions, statements, biographical information, and/or hometown and state for promotional or advertising purposes in any media worldwide.”

Responding to the backlash, Temu issued a statement to AFP, emphasizing the offer’s termination in both France and Britain due to “misunderstandings on the extent of client data use”. The company clarified that the campaign had only intended to use user names and profile pictures, a far cry from the wide-reaching data usage rights previously stated.

Despite the controversy, Temu described the now-discontinued offer as a “great success in France,” boasting numerous satisfied clients. However, the firm remained silent on inquiries regarding whether the promotional strategy was deployed in other countries.

Temu’s commitment to client confidentiality was strongly reiterated in its public statements. The company assured that it neither sells nor intends to sell client data, aiming to quell the rising concerns over privacy and data protection among its user base.

In the broader context of the digital marketplace, Temu’s parent company Pinduoduo stands as a formidable competitor against Alibaba, another e-commerce behemoth from China. Earlier this month, Pinduoduo reported a staggering 90% increase in net profit for 2023, reaching 60 billion yuan (approximately RM39.21 billion). This financial milestone highlights the intense competition and growth within the Chinese e-commerce sector.

Key Details of the Controversy:

  • Offer Details: Clients could receive vouchers worth up to €100 by downloading the Temu app and inviting another person to sign up.
  • Data Usage Terms: Participants had to agree to give Temu lifelong access to a broad spectrum of their personal information.
  • Public and Media Reaction: The offer attracted scrutiny and criticism from privacy advocates and the media, leading to its cancellation.
  • Company Response: Temu has halted the offer in England and France, citing misunderstandings about data usage scope, and reassured the public about its commitment to client confidentiality.
Comparative Analysis:
AspectBefore the ControversyAfter the Controversy
Public PerceptionInterest and participation in the voucher offerConcerns over privacy and data protection
Media CoverageInitial reports on the offer’s benefitsCriticism and scrutiny over privacy concerns
Company’s StancePromotion of the offer as a successReiteration of commitment to client confidentiality
Data Usage DisclosureBroad and indefinite usage rightsClarification limited to user names and profile pictures
Financial ImpactNot directly reportedPinduoduo reports significant profit increase

In summary, Temu’s withdrawal of its advertising campaign underlines the growing sensitivity around personal data usage and privacy rights in the digital age. The incident serves as a cautionary tale for corporations navigating the complex interplay between aggressive marketing strategies and consumer privacy expectations. As digital marketplaces continue to evolve, the balance between innovative marketing and ethical data practices remains a pivotal challenge for industry leaders like Temu and its parent company, Pinduoduo.

Yasmeeta Oon

Just a girl trying to break into the world of journalism, constantly on the hunt for the next big story to share.

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