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Data protection experts warn customers about taking part in Temu’s free money giveaway

Temu is a fast growing online marketplace known for selling a variety of products for very low prices   (AFP via Getty Images)
Temu is a fast growing online marketplace known for selling a variety of products for very low prices (AFP via Getty Images)

Data protection experts are urging people to think carefully about whether it is worth receiving free money in exchange for giving away vast amounts of their personal information.

Social media users were left sceptical after their feeds were flooded with links encouraging them to sign up to Temu’s free money giveaway. Temu is a fast-growing online marketplace, known for its regular special offers and for selling a wide range of products at very low prices.

In its most recent giveaway, Temu is promising to give users £50 in Paypal or web tokens. In return, they have to sign up to Temu, download the app, and send the invitation code to others so they can also sign up and claim their £50 payment.

However, experts and social media users have raised concerns about how the app collects its users’ data.

According to the rules of the cash giveaway, those who register must consent to the use of their data, including their "photo, name likeness, voice, opinions, statements, biographical information, and/or hometown and state for promotional or advertising purposes in any media worldwide” without being notified when it is used.

X users have called the giveaway a “massive scam”.

Gaël Duval, a data privacy expert, said: "I urge people to consider whether £50 enough for giving away rights to the use of personal information for advertising or other purposes.

“It certainly highlights just how valuable personal data is to companies though, if they’re willing to offer cash incentives."

The rules also mean the reward can provided as “Temu credits” to use on their website, rather than a bank transfer, and that it can "cancel, change, suspend, or modify any aspect of the Program at any time, including, without limitation, the availability of any Rewards or other benefits without notice."

Temu’s privacy policy states that it does not “sell” personal data in the traditional sense, but they do “share” this data with third parties for the purposes of personalised advertising and enhancing its services.

Temu said that other companies had similar terms and conditions, and that they should not be “singled out” for their policy (AFP via Getty Images)
Temu said that other companies had similar terms and conditions, and that they should not be “singled out” for their policy (AFP via Getty Images)

When approached for comment by The Independent, Temu said that its terms and conditions were “standard” among numerous industries, and that there was no reason for them to be “singled out.”

A spokesperson said: "The use of giveaways is common to companies across numerous industries, including competitors like Shein, whose current promotions include nearly identical terms and conditions. Temu gathers user information solely for the purpose of delivering our service and to enhance customer experience. We do not sell user information.”

Mr Duval said: "I believe everyone has a right to sovereignty over their own data and people are becoming more aware of the value of their data and how it’s used without their active consent. Businesses need to think of the future - just because something is tolerated now does not mean it won’t negatively impact their brand reputation in the future and this is why transparency is crucial."

Mr Duval founded the non-profit /e/OS, a free Android operating system that does not collect or track user data.

"By using big tech services like Google and social media, which most people do every day, you’re giving away huge amounts of personal information for free,” he said. “The more information a business has on users, both at scale and on an individual level, allows them to tailor their marketing messages to the right audience and enhance their profits.

“For a consumer, this means seeing increasingly relevant content, which perpetuates the consumption cycle through the impulse buying of products they don’t really need, but find attractive.”

Since it was launched in the US in 2022, Temu has become a major online shopping retailer, rivalling Amazon and Shein in popularity. The app was downloaded more times than Amazon Marketplace in Feb 2024, totalling 29.6 downloads worldwide. It is owned by the Chinese e-commerce company PDD Holdings.