Zhima Credit

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(Redirected from Sesame Credit)

Zhima Credit (Chinese: 芝麻信用; pinyin: Zhīma Xìnyòng; also known as Sesame Credit) is a private company-run credit scoring and loyalty program system developed by Ant Group, an affiliate of Alibaba Group. It uses data from Alibaba's services to compile its score. Customers receive a score based on a variety of factors based on social media interactions and purchases carried out on Alibaba Group websites or paid for using its affiliate Ant Financial's Alipay mobile wallet. The rewards of having a high score include easier access to loans from Ant Financial and having a more trustworthy profile on e-commerce sites within the Alibaba Group.[1][2] It has no relations to the Social Credit System.[3]


Zhima Credit was introduced on 28 January 2015. to be the first credit agency in China to use a score system for individual users, using both online and offline information.[4] It was developed when the People's Bank of China lifted the restrictions and let non-bank institutes conduct personal credit information operations.[5]


Baihe.com, a Chinese matchmaking company, uses Zhima Credit data as part of its service.[6]

Technology platform[edit]

In 2015, Zhima Credit published information on the methodology behind its currently running beta version.

Zhima Credit's scoring system is roughly modeled after FICO scoring in the United States and Schufa in Germany.[7][4]

Data collection[edit]

The corporate network of Zhima Credit, led by the Alibaba Group, spans over insurance, loan, historical payment, dating, shopping and mobility data.[8] It collects data from all sources by utilizing the regulatory freedom it built from objects and social networks, public and private institutions and offline and online. The system is powered by "data from more than 300 million real-name registered users and 37 million small businesses that buy and sell on Alibaba Group marketplaces". Due to Zhima Credit’s close collaboration with the government, it also has access to all public documents, such as official identity and financial records.[4]

Data distribution[edit]

Zhima Credit emphasizes its strict privacy and data protection, ensured through encryption and segregation.[4] The firm also states that data is only gathered upon knowledge and consent of the user.[4] According to Ant Financial, users’ scores can currently only be shared with their authorization or by themselves.[4]

Data Structure[edit]

Big data and behavioral analytics are building blocks for the system. Data fragments are classified into five categories:[4][8]

  • Credit History: Reflects users’ past payment history and level of debt
  • Fulfillment Capacity: Shows users’ ability to fulfill contract obligations
  • Personal Characteristics: Examine the extent and accuracy of personal information
  • Behavior and Preferences: Reveal users’ online behavior
  • Interpersonal Relationships: Reflect the online characteristics of a users’ friends

The specifications of the algorithm that determine the classification, as well as the analytical parameters and indicators remain confidential.[4] It is unclear is whether data is structured to build in tolerances for errors, for example the likelihood of a unit of data being false or from an unreliable source.[4][8]

Data visualization[edit]

The five categories that Zhima Credit classifies its data into, have different weightings attached to them. [4] Based on those, an algorithm determines a citizen's final citizen score, ranked among others. [4] The scores in the ranking range from 350 (lowest trustworthiness) to 950 (highest trustworthiness). [4] From 600 up, one can gain privileges, while lower scorers will revoke them.[8] According to current plans, the final score and ranking will be publicly available.[8]

Relation to Social Credit System[edit]

The Social Credit System was introduced by the Chinese government and Alibaba promoted Sesame credit as a technology partner of the government's project. Initially, it was unclear how closely tied the Sesame credit is in relation to the national social credit system. [3]

In November 2017, Zhima Credit's general manager, Hu Tao, stated that no Zhima Credit data is shared with the Chinese government or other third parties without a user's consent. She also denied the company monitors social media content, or any other method, to assess a customer's 'qualitative characteristics' for Zhima Credit.

In 2017, the Chinese government concluded that none of the pilots, which includes Sesame Credit, will receive authorization as the official credit reporting system, due to concerns on conflicts of interest.[3]

See also[edit]

  • Tencent – also offers a credit scoring system


  1. ^ "China might use data to create a score for each citizen based on how trustworthy they are". Business Insider. 26 October 2016. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  2. ^ "China through a glass, darkly". 24 December 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Matsakis, Louise (29 July 2019). "How the West Got China's Social Credit System Wrong". WIRED.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Ant Financial Unveils China's First Credit-Scoring System Using Online Data". Ant Financial. 28 January 2015. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  5. ^ JIANG, XUEQING. "Credit? They've got your numbers". CHINADAILY. Retrieved 13 December 2020.
  6. ^ Hatton, Celia (26 October 2015). "China 'social credit': Beijing sets up huge system". BBC News. Retrieved 2015-12-23.
  7. ^ Ohlberg, Mareike; Ahmed, Shazeda; Lan, Bertram (12 December 2017). "Central Planning, Local Experiments: The complex implementation of China's Social Credit System" (PDF). Merics China Monitor. Mercator Institute for China Studies: 12. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  8. ^ a b c d e Botsman, Rachel (2017). Who Can You Trust? How Technology Brought Us Together – and Why It Could Drive Us Apart. London, UK: Portfolio Penguin.

External links[edit]