Facebook secretly releases photo-sharing app in China

Mark Zuckerberg really wants Facebook to have an presence in China, but it doesn't matter what he tries the social network remains banned there. He' s learned to speak Mandarin, gone jogging across Beijing's Tiananmen Square, met with their censorship chief, promoted President Xi Jinping's book, and even created a censorship tool for the country, but to no avail.

Now it seems, Zuckerberg is trying a completely different tactic: secretly entering China by anonymously releasing an app there.

As The New York Times reports, the app in question is called Colorful Balloons and it "shares the look, function and feel" of photo-sharing app Facebook Moments. But while it feels like a Facebook app, there is absolutely no hint of Facebook when using it.

 

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Facebook apparently used a local company to handle releasing the app back in May, which meant the social network's involvement remained invisible. What remains unclear is how exactly Facebook believes it can profit from doing this.

All data from the app needs to be kept on servers in China. The authorities are also clamping down hard on the use of VPNs for access to servers outside of China. Even if Facebook wanted to see the data collected it would be difficult to send it to Facebook in the US. And even if they did, it would be met with a lot of suspicion by the Chinese government.

The fact Colorful Balloons has been highlighted as a Facebook app in disguise won't go unnoticed by the Chinese authorities. They are likely already reviewing the app, and it could end up disappearing if they find anything even the least bit suspicious. But the fact Mark Zuckerberg clearly had to authorize this stealthy app launch won't do much to enhance his relationship with China.

This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.