Japan Sounds Alarm About China’s Big Brother in Mobile Payments

January 10, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

The convenience and comparative safety of mobile payments have long been a part of the market for users, and thanks to these assets, users have flocked to mobile payments systems. However, there’s something of a downside to mobile payments, or at least it could be in the wrong hands. Asahi Shimbun recently issued a bit of note about the potential downsides of mobile payments, and how, for the Chinese, big brother could be closer to hand than anyone wants.

Asahi Shimbun recently noted that China was leading the way overall to a cashless society. That’s debatable, especially given what’s been going on in large parts of Europe. But China is definitely a major player in the mobile payments space, especially given what we’ve seen since 2015.

China’s mobile payments space is actually to the point where even the homeless use it as a means to panhandle, partly because it’s easier to scan a quick response (QR) code than it is fork over change and partly because the average Chinese person no longer has change to fork over.

However, it’s what the companies—and by extension the Chinese government—is doing with these mobile payment systems that has places like Asahi Shimbun concerned. While there’s little wrong with companies using data about customers to make business plans, the plans the Chinese government has to use this data as a means to establish creditworthiness are a concern.

The program is intended to “punish bad behavior,” but it’s got quite a bit else that’s more concerning going on. For instance, people with payment problems have been denied access to air travel. Those with a history of violating smoking rules find it difficult to buy a train ticket.

With more data available to access, how long before, say, a person who bought a subscription to a magazine the government finds distasteful is subject to arrest? That’s a proposition that’s got people worried all over the world, a function of declining trust in government and other institutions. Fixing such a problem may be as simple as limiting one’s use of mobile payments to certain situations, but perhaps the only real solution is to re-establish trust that those who have access to our data will use it, at least, not against us.