Alipay has denied the accusation that it violated user-privacy by secretly accessing users’ smartphone cameras. The Alipay app was blasted on social media on Monday for suspicions about back-end elements of the app. Some web users accused it of taking and using photos without notifying users of its Android version.
“[Alipay] only requests authorizations necessary for functions. We won’t do any additional information collection or background operations, this includes violation or leaks of user-privacy,” Alipay’s team announced in a Weibo post on Tuesday.
The initial accusation came from Twitter user typcn, who published a post saying that “based on firmware usage, some remote config file[s] and internet traffic, the Android version of Alipay may open your camera to take a photo and record sound for several seconds [without your knowledge], and then upload it to servers nearby, along with user-contact-information, call records, and information on the nearby base station and Wi-Fi.”
He also pointed out in another post that on one of the previous versions of Alipay on Android, users could hear the sound of a shutter when they opened Alipay’s app. He said Alipay failed to mute the sound of the smartphone’s camera in that version, a version which is no longer available.
The posts were then shared on China’s Quora-like forum Zhihu, attracting over five thousand followers overnight to the question titled “What do you think of the privacy violation incident on Alipay’s Android version”. One of the answers that received the most votes under the question explored how Alipay may have stored frames of the photo previews available on Android phones.
Some also called for more concrete evidence on the accusation, which has yet to be offered. Another focus of the issue is that the Alipay app is frequently requesting access to the smartphone’s camera and microphone even when it’s idle. Less critical comments said that even if Alipay didn’t violate user-privacy by sneaking photos, it may occupy more storage and eventually ruin Android users’ experiences.
This isn’t the first time Alipay has attracted attention to its privacy settings. It also triggered wide discussion when it transformed the app from a mobile payment tool into a social networking app. It duplicated WeChat’s instant messaging function and “Moments” feature in its earlier update last July. Users showed concern over their financial privacy as the app intends to go “social”.
Alipay, backed by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, now dominates the third-party payment market in China. According to Chinese market research agency Analysys, it holds 71.51% of the third-party mobile payment market share in China as of Q3 2015. Its primary competitor, the Tencent-backed Tenpay (including WeChat Payment and QQ wallet), only has 15.9% of the market according to the same report.
(Featured image from 51CTO.com)