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Chinese iPhone Users Flooded with Spam through iMessage

Since Apple handed over their iCould operations in China to the Chinese Guizhou-Cloud Big Data company, iPhone users are bombarded with trash ads in iMessage.

Ryan Gandolfo

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Intrusive advertisements, ranging from gambling promotions to non-solicited pornography, are flooding Chinese iPhones. Many users have had enough of them, and are looking for solutions.

The problem of spam ads is a universal one, but for iPhone users in China, they are especially bombarded with spam through iMessage.

Recently, several Chinese media outlets, including CCTV, have published articles and videos about Apple’s iMessage ‘trash’ messages flooding into Chinese iPhone users’ inbox. These messages contain various kinds of advertising, most of which are illicit.

A common junk ad in iMessage. The sender’s address is an email address with a combination of random numbers and letters. Source: CCTV news

The spam problem has also been a topic of debate on social media this week, where thousands of commenters complain about receiving loads of different ‘trash’ messages, primarily about gambling, purchasing agents, and sexual solicitation.

Even though iPhone users report and delete the messages, new ones keep on flooding in – and there seemingly is no solution for the issue yet.

Chinese media report that there is a rise in companies focusing on spam advertising. They build on massive iMessage user databases to send out ads to specific user groups based on their demographics, gender, age, sex, etc.

Cartoon comparing junk iMessage ads to mosquitos. Source: CCTV news.

The problem of Apple’s illicit spam adds to US-China tensions because of the trade war, with state media accusing Apple for failing to solve the problem.

While Chinese media outlets seem to be pointing fingers at Apple, many Weibo users are blaming the new company responsible for Apple’s iCloud services in mainland China, namely Guizhou-Cloud Big Data (云上贵州公司).

In February of this year, Apple handed over their iCould operations in China to a Chinese company to comply with government policies that require Chinese citizens’ data to be held within the country.

One user comments: “We didn’t have this [problem] before. Only after Guizhou-Cloud took over did it occur. Classic China.”

Another Weibo user wrote: “Wake up everyone! State enterprise Guizhou-Cloud is responsible for iCloud, and is selling user data on the black market. Why would you now blame Apple for this problem???”

For the many iPhone users searching for a quick fix to the annoying spam problem, Weibo account Digital Tail (@数字尾巴) offers a simple solution: “If you only use your message center to receive phone verifications and notifications, then you might as well just turn iMessage off.”

On August 2nd, Cult of Mac reported that Apple is now working with Chinese telecoms firms to find a way to reduce the flood of spam in iMessage.

Some Weibo commenters, however, think there are more important things to deal with first: “Solve the spam ads on Weibo, first,” they write: “They’re more intrusive anyway than those on iPhone.”

By Ryan Gandolfo

This article has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Ryan Gandolfo is an Economics graduate from Miami who has worked and lived in Shanghai, Baoding, and Guangzhou. He is interested in China's growing role in the global economy and closely follows the development of major Chinese technology firms. 

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China Digital

Insights into Sesame Credit & Top 5 Ways to Use a High Sesame Score

These are the top ways in which netizens’ high Sesame Credit scores can be used in daily life.

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There’s been much talk about China’s ‘credit score’ recently, with many media conflating the country’s Social Credit System with the commercial Sesame Credit programme. In this article, we will explain the latter: what is Sesame Credit and what can users do with their high score?

Note: for more about the Social Credit System and differences in its media coverage in China and the West, please see this article.

With all the talks about China’s nascent Social Credit system and commercial social credit programmes, it is becoming clear that Chinese netizens are entering a ‘credit lifestyle’ (信用生活).

“All Chinese citizens now have a score,” is an idea that has popped up in many foreign media over the past years, often conflating it with China’s nascent ‘Social Credit System.’ To read more about the Social Credit System see our articles about this here or here. In this article, we will solely focus on Sesame Credit.

On Weibo, the official Sesame Credit account (@芝麻信用), which has over 240,840 followers, often announces new ways for people to profit from their (high) Sesame Credit score.

What’s on Weibo explores and lists five different ways in which a high Sesame Credit score can be used in China today. But first – what actually is Sesame Credit?

 

About Sesame Credit

 

Sesame Credit (Zhīma xìnyòng 芝麻信用) was launched on January 28, 2015, by Alibaba’s Ant Financial, after it had received permission by the PBOC (People’s Bank of China) to be one of the eight Chinese companies to experiment with personal credit reporting.

According to the Sesame Credit company, its major goal is to make credit more widely available to consumers and small business owners, and to “enable credit providers to make holistic and accurate decisions,” while also “empowering merchants to provide more credit-related services.”

Image via http://www.twoeggz.com.

Because Sesame Credit is part of Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group family (Ant Financial is an affiliate of the Chinese Alibaba Group), Sesame Credit has an enormous amount of data at its disposal, from e-commerce sites to finance products. China’s biggest shopping websites Taobao and Tmall belong to Alibaba’s vast online ecosystem, as does payment app Alipay.

It is not mandatory for users to opt into Sesame Credit. Some have compared the system to a loyalty program, although it is a bit more than that. Since 2015, for example, Sesame Credit also cooperates with the popular online dating service company Baihe.com (百合网), so that people can link their dating profile to their credit score. Sesame Credit already had 520 million users as of 2017.

Since its launch, various foreign media have written about Sesame Credit as an ‘Orwellian system.’ Among others, one of the reasons for this, is that Sesame Credit incorporates a publicly available ‘blacklist’ into its scoring process. The ‘blacklist’ is a Chinese courts’ list with the names of people that have an effective court justice against them; inclusion on this list can make users’ existing Sesame Credit drop dramatically, which would make people miss out on all perks of having a high Sesame Score.

Earlier in 2018, Alibaba, along with the seven other private credit programmes that were allowed to run their trial in 2015, become shareholders and active contributors to a new unified platform that has access to an enormous number of personal credit data. At the so-called ‘trust alliance’ (信联) Baihang Credit (百行征信), state level and commercial organizations join forces in further developing China’s credit systems.

 

About the Score

 

Within the Sesame Credit programme, the lowest score one can get is 350. The highest is 950. This score is based on users’ behavior across various platforms. A score of 550 to 600 is an intermediate/normal score. 600-650 is considered a ‘good’ score. Those in the 700-950 range are exceptionally high in score.

For those who first opt-in to Sesame Credit, and who have not had any violations, 600 is usually the score to receive.

Sesame Credit example scores explained, from 385 being in the low range to 731 being in the ‘good’ range.

Some of the important elements the score is allegedly based on, are –

• (35%) general credit history: past payment history and indebtedness – if persons still have enough credit on their credit card when purchasing items, if they pay their gas & electricity on time [often done through Alipay in China], pay violations tickets on time, etc.
• (25%) general financial status/fulfillment capacity: the available amount on users’ Alipay account, if they are renting a car/house etc. and are able to pay for it, status of Huabei (a credit card function within the Alipay wallet), etc.
• (20%) online behavior and preference: the extent to which an account is actively used, how many purchases are done, etc.
• (15%) people’s personal characteristics: educational background, address, real-name registrations, etc.
• (5%) contact network and interpersonal relationships: how many online contacts one has, ones’s influential power in contact list, interactions between user and friends, etc.

For those who opt in to Sesame Credit and have a high score, there are many different ways to benefit from it, as listed below.

 

The Top Ways to Benefit from Sesame Credit

 

Please note that there are more ways to benefit from a high Sesame Credit score, but we have listed five popular ones below.

 

#1 ‘Credit Treatment’ at Hospitals

 

In November of 2017, Sesame Credit first launched its “Credit Medical Treatment” (信用就医) services for people with a score over 650, with Shanghai’s Huashan hospital being the country’s first hospital to implement the function.

With “Credit Medical Treatment,” patients could save up to 60% of waiting time at hospitals by cutting lines and not needing to pay for treatments upfront. Payments are done through Sesame Credit’s in-app credit function Huabei (花呗).

While a normal procedure at Chinese hospitals can be time-consuming, the Sesame Credit procedure is much more efficient, mainly because people do not need to line up to pre-pay for their medical check-up and the medications.

Normal procedure:

(±20 min) 1. Arrive and register at the hospital and pay for it
(±60 min) 2. Waiting time to see a doctor
(±10 min) 3. Doctor’s appointment/consultation
(±20 min) 4. Line up for payment [of examination]
(±20 min) 5. Check-up/Examination
(±20 min) 6. Queue up for payment
(±10 min) 7. Pick up medicine

Image via xinhuanet.

The procedure with Sesame Credit:

(±3 min) 1. Register at hospital and payment by phone.
(±10 min) 2. Automatically get a number to see the doctor.
(±10 min) 3. Doctor’s consultation.
Payment [for examination]
(±20 min) 4. Examination.
Payment [for medicine]
(±10 min) 5. Pick up medicine

There are also other ways in which people with a good Sesame Credit score can enjoy extra services and benefits at hospitals. Those with a score over 600, for example, can rent a wheelchair in hospitals without deposit.

 

#2 Try First, Pay Later

 

Since September 2018, Sesame Credit offers the possibility to “try out” purchases from Tmall for consumers who have a Credit Score of over 700, promoting the idea of “never regretting a purchase.”

With this concept, people can order clothes or other items from e-commerce platform Tmall (天猫 Tiānmāo in Chinese) without any risk, having the guarantee to always being able to send back items that are unsatisfactory without paying for them.

There are also frequent promotions done by brands and companies in collaboration with Sesame Credit, such as offering people with a high credit score (over 750) to try out the newest Ford for three days, or to use the latest Meitu phone for 30 days for free, without necessarily needing to buy it afterward.

Meitu promotion for Sesame Credit users with a score over 750.

Sesame Credit also makes it more tempting for its users to spend money on (Alibaba) platforms in other ways. The higher one’s credit is, the more one is able to lend from online lending service Huabei; those with a credit higher than 750 can lend up to 20,000 RMB (±$2890). Unsurprisingly, the literal translation of Alipay’s ‘online credit card’ service Huabei (花呗) is “Just Spend.”

 

#3 No Deposit on Shared Bikes (and other things)

 

Sesame Credit has a partnership with bike sharing platforms Hello Bike (哈罗单车) and Ofo, allowing users with a credit over 650 points to rent these bicycles, that can be found anywhere in bigger cities in China, without paying a deposit.

It is not the only service that does not require a deposit for those with a high Credit score; using a shared umbrella, or a publicly available shared phone charger, or even renting apartments, often no longer needs a deposit for those with a higher score.

 

#4 Open Access to Libraries

 

In many places in China, people who have a Sesame Credit score over 550 no longer need to pay a downpayment and can set up a library card for free, in other places people with a higher Sesame score no longer need a library card at all to borrow books at their local libraries and/or their automated self-service street libraries (just their ID).

Since April of 2018, this special service for Sesame Credit users (not needing a card) was introduced in the entire Zhejiang province. Public libraries in other places, such as Shanghai, have already been experimenting with Sesame Credit perks for library lovers since 2015.

 

#5 Special Lounges at Train Stations

 

Especially during peak seasons such as the National Day holidays or Spring Festival, China’s train stations can get exceptionally busy. For Sesame Credit members with a score over 650, there are now special lounges to relax.

Sina notes that the lounge is only available to those members who have also bought a higher fair ticket (first class), or who have a platinum status.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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China Digital

Making China’s Healthcare More Mobile: Wuxi Launches ‘Smart Medical App’

The Wuxi Medical App makes Chinese health care more digital.

Gabi Verberg

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With the trial launch of the Wuxi Smart Medical app [无锡智医APP], patients of eight different Wuxi hospitals can now experiment with navigating their healthcare through mobile.

In late October, the Wuxi Municipal Health Planning Commission launched a trial version of the so-called “Wuxi Smart Medical App” [无锡智医APP] in cooperation with eight hospitals in the city of Wuxi, Jiangsu province – a city with a population of more than six million people.

The app is meant to make the navigation of health services more convenient for both patients and people who work in the medical sector.

According to Wuxi Daily, one of the reasons why the app was designed is to alleviate the widespread problem of long queues at local hospitals.

Especially in China’s bigger cities, many patients have to wait in line for hours or sometimes even days before they can register for an appointment (a process known as guàhào 挂号), and receive medical treatment.

With the free app, users can now efficiently register for a doctor’s appointment at one of the eight cooperating hospitals through their mobile phone, without having to stand in line at the hospital. The app also allows patients to see and pay for their medical bills, check medical information, and see their examination results.

“When I needed medical consultation or treatment, I never knew what department or doctor I had to queue for,” Liu Xingyu (刘星宇), director of the Information Department of the Municipal Health Planning Commission, tells Wuxi Daily: “I was not the only one facing this problem. But with the app, patients can now insert a type of medical issue, their symptoms, etc., and the app will recommend the [relevant] department.”

To get insights into examination results, patients using the app no longer have to spend entire afternoons waiting in the hospital. The app stores all examination results going back one year.

As for the payment of medical fees, the app provides users with a self-service payment option. By following a few steps, people can pay their medical bills on their phone through Alipay.

The Wuxi app is a new app, but the idea of bringing China’s digitalization into the health care system is not new. As reported by Technode, Tencent already launched WeChat Intelligent Healthcare (微信智慧医疗) in 2014, a platform that allows users to do things such as book appointments, make payments, and more, at hospitals and other medical facilities through WeChat public accounts.

China’s healthcare system has also become more digitalized through options offered by some hospitals in China for people with a relatively high score on their Sesame Credit to receive certain ‘perks’, such as being able to skip lines, or use wheelchairs without paying deposits. (For more about Sesame Credit, an opt-in commercial credit programme by Ant Financial (Alipay), also see this article).

Perhaps Wuxi’s trial app will lead the way for other hospitals in China to become more mobile-focused. For now, the Android version of the Wuxi app is available on Huawei and Xiaomi app stores. The iOS version is expected to be available in the Apple Store soon, as is the added option to pay for medical bills through WeChat.

By Gabi Verberg, with contributions by Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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