Following an online uproar, Chinese financial giant Ant Financial has apologized for auto-enrolling unsuspecting users of its new shopping profile service in its credit scoring system, Bloomberg reported.
The company, which is controlled by billionaire Alibaba Founder Jack Ma, had unveiled a free service to help users generate a consumption profile based on their shopping history. But the landing page contained a small box — already checked — that enrolled users in Ant’s Sesame Credit service.
After users learned of the automatic enrollment and complained, Ant changed the setting and called the move “extremely idiotic,” according to a post on its official social media account translated by Bloomberg. The company also stated none of the users who were involuntarily signed up for Sesame Credit would be enrolled in the program.
Despite the fact that its citizens are subject to persistent government monitoring and censorship, Chinese internet users have grown concerned over a lack of transparency on the use of their data by private companies. Tencent Holdings Ltd., which developed the popular messaging app WeChat, denied it was storing users’ chat histories following doubt cast by a high-profile entrepreneur.
In 2015, Ant launched Sesame Credit, which combines Big Data technology and customer behavior analytics to help make credit more available to millions of Chinese consumers. It was targeted toward people without credit histories at traditional agencies — and included eCommerce data in its analysis.
“They may have never obtained bank loans or applied for credit cards,” Sesame Credit Chief Data Scientist Yu Wujie said when the service launched. “However, they might be active internet users who shop online a lot, ePay their utility bills on time, have a stable residential status and have been using their mobile phone numbers for a long time. We will take these and other factors into consideration when assessing consumers’ creditworthiness.”