A recent user backlash against Alibaba’s online finance affiliate Ant Financial suggests that Chinese citizens growing increasingly frustrated at internet companies playing fast-and-loose with their personal information, according to the New York Times.
Ant Financial apologized to users on Thursday after a public outcry over a recent campaign it ran, in which customers who signed up to receive a free report on their personal spending in 2017 were automatically enrolled in the company’s “social credit” program.
Social credit systems, which use vast troves of data on users’ habits, behavior and even their social circle in order to determine their credit rating, are becoming an increasingly hot topic in China. Major tech companies and the Chinese government are creating systems along these lines, and many had assumed that Chinese society’s relative lack of concern for personal privacy would mean there would be little opposition to their creation. But according to the New York Times, the furor over Ant Financial’s move “represents a nascent, but growing demand for increased privacy and data protections online”.
One person sounding the alarm over China’s lack of privacy in recent days has been Li Shufu, chairman of the major Chinese auto group Geely Holding Group, which owns Volvo Cars. “When you walk on the road, there are surveillance cameras everywhere,” Li said at a New Year’s forum.
“Pony Ma must be reading our WeChat messages every single day,” he added, referring to the founder of Tencent, the Chinese tech giant that owns the country’s most popular social media and chat app.