Shoppers warned against Temu ‘free money’ handouts

Users are signing away their “likeness, voice, and opinions” for Temu cashback rewards.

The Chinese-owned online marketplace is under scrutiny after its promotion offering up to £100 ($126) in cash and store credit for new sign-ups in the UK went viral on social media.

The company’s cashback rewards scheme has been called a privacy nightmare and raised fears that user data could be used to create deepfakes and exploited in other ways that sign-ups did not anticipate or consent to.

Users are urged to carefully read the terms and conditions before signing up, which allows Temu to use their “photo, name, likeness, voice, opinions, statements, biographical information, and/or hometown and state” worldwide.

It further states that Temu could use this personal information “in perpetuity without further review, notification, payment, or consideration.” The user data can also be shared with third parties.

The promotion requires users to download the Temu app and share an invitation code with others to earn gift vouchers and cash rewards transferred directly to their PayPal accounts.

Unsurprisingly, this has led to a deluge of posts on social media promoting the scheme, with users sharing invite codes and screenshots of money going to their PayPal accounts, some boasting to have earned hundreds and even thousands of pounds as a result.

Global searches for “Temu money” have surged 450% over the last 90 days, according to experts from CSGOLuck, which has analyzed Google Trends search data following the “free money” giveaway going viral.

“It's important when signing up and participating in online promotions to know what exactly the terms are and what your data will be used for,” experts said. “It's very hard to pinpoint how exactly your data will be used when signing up.”

Temu said in a statement: "Temu gathers user information solely for the purpose of delivering our service and to enhance customer experience.”

“We do not sell user information. The terms and conditions highlighted are commonplace in similar promotions held by various companies across different sectors.”

Temu later said it had also updated its cash rewards campaign terms and conditions "to make it clear that we only ever use username and profile pictures in this promotion for referral functionality and winner announcements."

"The previous terms and conditions were overly broad and inadvertently included promotional uses that Temu does not engage in," it said.

Earlier, US and UK officials accused Beijing of a sweeping cyberespionage campaign that allegedly hit millions of people, including lawmakers, academics, and journalists, as well as companies including defense contractors.

Finland also said that Chinese state-sponsored hackers targeted its parliament’s information systems, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has raised cyber espionage concerns directly with China’s President Xi Jinping during a meeting in Beijing.

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