Sir, In response to your article “ A Big Brother approach has qualities that would benefit society” (FT.com, October 31): Ant Financial Services Group wishes to provide readers with some clarification on one of our services, Zhima (aka “Sesame”) Credit.

Zhima Credit is a private, independent, third-party credit scoring service. Any assertion that it is contracted to run China’s social credit system is false. Zhima Credit does not share user scores or underlying data with any third party including the government without the user’s prior consent. Zhima Credit does not monitor the content of users’ social media posts nor does it attempt to measure qualitative characteristics like character, as your article suggests.

We began offering Zhima Credit to users of Alipay (our online and mobile payment app) in 2015 on an entirely opt-in basis. Previously, many Chinese lacked any form of personal credit history, preventing them from obtaining even basic credit-based services, such as small consumer loans. Ant Financial’s goal in launching Zhima Credit was to give unbanked and under-banked individuals and businesses more equal access to these financial services.

Zhima Credit analyses user credit history accumulated while using services within the Alipay app and on business partner platforms, such as credit card repayments, online consumer loan repayments and utility payments, and considers other factors such as shopping frequency and preferences. Users are informed within the Alipay app of the five categories of metrics that have been used to determine their credit score.

Crucially, all this information is desensitised (anonymised) and encrypted before being analysed, meaning that our algorithm can gain an accurate understanding of a user’s creditworthiness without compromising his or her privacy. Users have a channel for raising questions about credit history that negatively influenced their scores.

When users opt in to share their Zhima Credit Score with businesses such as bike sharing services and online travel agencies, it helps these businesses grant consumers benefits like deposit waivers. From within the Alipay app, Zhima Credit users can manage which businesses may see their score.

Hu Tao
General Manager, Zhima Credit, a subsidiary of Ant Financial Services Group

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