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Alipay apologizes for illegal data collection scandal

(People's Daily Online)    14:06, January 04, 2018

Alipay, China’s largest mobile payment platform, issued an official apology on Wednesday after users accused the company of illegally collecting and sharing their personal data.

“We sincerely apologize for our reckless move. Our company will not collect users’ information without their approval nor misuse their personal data, and our data collection process abides strictly by laws,” read an apology letter issued by Alipay on its official Sina Weibo page.

The apology comes after users discovered that by acquiring their annual digital financial report via Alipay’s app, a data sharing agreement would be imposed on them. According to the agreement, Alipay is authorized to collect and store users’ data, including their personal information and financial standing, and can share that information with third-parties.

The data sharing option was marked with inconspicuous font and color on Alipay’s annual report page with a default setting of YES, meaning that users may be coaxed to share their personal information without even knowing it.

According to China’s Administrative Measures for Online Trading, which was released in 2014, online commodity dealers and relevant service providers are required to clearly remind consumers to pay attention to the terms and conditions vital to their interests. Moreover, by collecting and using personal information, they are required to explicitly state the purpose, methods, and scope of data collection and use.

As of press time, Alipay has already removed the data sharing option, noting that users who have already agreed to share their data can manually cancel the authorization.

Despite the data collection scandal, Alipay’s annual personal financial report service has led to an online frenzy in China, with many users sharing their reports on social media platforms.

According to Alipay, the annual report gives users detailed consumption data, including places where payments took place, or cities where users have been to in 2017, as well as drawing an image for their consumption pattern.

The report also assigns a key word to a user, such as “talent” or “beauty.” Some netizens have even wrote articles to interpret the key words, noting that those who have spent a lot of money on books and art related objects would normally be given the word “talent.”

Mobile payment has swiftly changed Chinese people’s lifestyle in the past few years. According to Alipay’s report in 2017, about 82 percent of the 520 million Alipay users paid for goods and services via the platform in 2017, compared with 71 percent of 450 million Alipay users in 2016, while more than 40 million brick-and-mortar stores nationwide have enabled mobile payment in the past year.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Kou Jie, Bianji)

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