Data protection fears raised over shopping giant Temu's cash giveaway

A page from the Temu website is seen, June 23, 2023, in New York.
A page from the Temu website is seen, June 23, 2023, in New York. Copyright Richard Drew/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Richard Drew/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Doloresz Katanich
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In exchange for the £50 payment, the site gets the right to use and publish people's photos, voices and biographical information among others.


Now you can earn as much as £50 (€58.6) in Paypal or web tokens just by signing up to Temu and sharing the link with your friends, says a major promotion from the rapidly growing Chinese e-commerce giant. 

Sounds tempting. 

Right until you reach the terms and conditions, which, according to data protection experts, practically ask you to sign away your digital life. 

How Temu is taking over global e-commerce

Temu, selling ultra-cheap products, such as shoes for as little as €0,50,  is an aggressively growing online marketplace. The Chinese site was launched in September 2022 and by the following May it had reportedly reached 100 million users in the US.

In February 2024, the app was downloaded more than 29.6 million times globally, making it more popular than Amazon's marketplace app, according to Statista. 

The site doesn't spend on warehouses, but ships directly from the manufacturers in China, while spending millions on aggressive marketing campaigns on social media platforms including Facebook and TikTok. 

The latest promotion has also gone viral on social media, with users showing proof of receiving a transfer into their PayPal account. 

Others are more sceptical, pointing out that the latest marketing stunt is asking for too much in terms of its users' personal data. 

According to the small print, in exchange for the cash handout, users must agree for Temu to use and publish their "photo, name, likeness, voice, opinions, statements, biographical information, and/or hometown and state for promotional or advertising purposes in any media worldwide". The site also stresses that users will not be notified in advance of their data being used. 

According to the BBC, the UK data regulator is considering concerns raised by legal and consumer experts over the promotion by the Chinese-owned platform. 

The site's questionable strategies have already drawn the attention of the US authorities. Temu is facing two class-action lawsuits over data privacy concerns. According to US-based accounting and business advisory firm Schneider Downs, one lawsuit alleges that Temu is failing to enable safe usage and storage of customers’ sensitive data. Temu denies all allegations and states that the lawsuits are meritless.

"We collect information with a clear and singular purpose: to provide and continually enhance our products and services for our users. Our practices are in line with industry practices and clearly disclosed in our Privacy Policy," writes a statement from the Chinese e-commerce giant. 

Their Privacy Policy states that Temu does not "sell" personal information in the traditional sense, but "shares" that with various parties for improved targeted advertising and marketing communications.

'If you’re not paying for a product, then you are the product'

The well-known phrase above highlights the fact that many of the free online services that we use, make their money by harvesting our personal data and delivering that to advertisers.

Data is the most valuable asset to the digital economy. It accounts for almost 3.6% of the EU's GDP and it is projected to reach a value of just under €1 trillion by 2030.

Customer data, as well as search history and browser preferences, are highly valuable for businesses. It is used by them to ensure that they target the right audience with the right products and services, helping them to maximise profits. 

There are estimates that our personal information could be worth several hundred dollars a year to the likes of Facebook and Google. 

Meanwhile, the importance of how companies protect our data is increasing, with cybersecurity concerns skyrocketing. Last year, a report by found that the price of a full personal data set, enough to steal a person’s identity, could be as high as $1,010 on the dark web.


In the final analysis, it remains a question for each customer or online user to decide, how much they value their personal data and what they choose to share online.

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