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Ant Financial, Tianjin government launch electronic identity information system

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Ant Financial, a financial subsidiary of China's e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, has joined hands with Tianjin's public security bureau to launch a five-in-one electronic document information system in push for the digitalization of personal certificates.

The electronic document information system incorporates identification card, driving license, vehicle registration card, residence permit and residence booklet, which will facilitate hotel check-in, police inquiry, road check, identity verification, mortgage and so on.

Applicable to the locals and nonresidents of Tianjin, the electronic document information system, which is connected with Alipay, a mobile payment service operated by Ant Financial, cannot be used at the city's airports and railway stations until Ant Financial realizes the connectivity of data with these traffic facilities.

A staff said that Ant Financial is making efforts to accelerate the application of the electronic document information system in Tianjin's airports, railway stations as well as other public facilities by signing more than 200 memorandums of cooperation with the city's public security bureau.

However, the launch of the electronic document information system has triggered skepticism among some people, who are concerned about possible breach of privacy.

"What if our personal information connected with Ant Financial is leaked?" an Internet user commented.

Other Internet users expressed worries about the involvement of more private companies in designing the public service products, calling for greater supervision by the related government agencies.

While some Internet users held reservation, some were more open to the matter, who said that the digitalization of the personal paper documents could make lives more convenient and called for closer cooperation between government agencies and private companies.

Facing the doubts, Zhao Dandan, deputy general manager of city service of Ant Financial, defended the validity of the company's risk control system, which uses facial recognition and fingerprint verification to prevent users' private information from being leaked. Besides, Alipay is linked with a data pool control by the Tianjin authorities, guaranteeing the safety of users' private information, said Zhao.

Amid the push to build a cash-free society with the Alipay mobile payment tool, Ant Financial has started pilot operations of the electronic document systems in China over the recent two years.

In April, the First Research Institute of the Ministry of Public Security integrated its Resident Identification Online Verification Certificate with Alipay. The electronic identification verification system is being trialed in the Chinese cities of Hangzhou, Quzhou and Fuzhou, where citizens can use the system to handle affairs at government departments and make transactions without providing their identification cards.

Alibaba is not the only technology giant in China to materialize the digitalization of identification card.

Tencent, the country's Internet titan, has stolen a march on Alibaba by starting the trial operation of an electronic identification card system on WeChat, the company's popular social media app, in partnership with the Guangzhou government in December last year.

After registering on the WeChat app by inputting names and identification numbers and then scanning their faces, users can obtain an electronic identification card, which is recognized by the Ministry of Public Security and other agencies.

Recently, Tencent went further by announcing plans to launch a digital pass system to facilitate travel, mobile payment and personal exchange in China's Greater Bay Area, which the Chinese government wants to build into an integrated economic and business center that links Hong Kong, Macau and some cities of the southern province of Guangdong.

The electronic pass system is also connected with WeChat, a way that many analysts said could enhance the popularity of the WeChat Pay mobile payment service in Hong Kong, where Alipay is gaining ground.

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