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(Bloomberg) -- Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. will only share user data with Chinese authorities if they’re investigating terrorism or other crimes, founder Jack Ma pledged, as the e- commerce giant strives to reach 2 billion customers.
The Alibaba chairman said in an interview on Bloomberg TV that he would draw the line if governments requested access to information about buyers and sellers using the company’s online malls and auction sites without convincing safety or security reasons. Ma, who is China’s richest man, spoke Friday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“I tell them, any government, if you come here for the national security, anti-terrorist -- anywhere anti-terrorist -- we work together,” Ma said. “It’s a criminal, we work. The rest, no.”
Ma, a one-time English teacher who started the e-commerce business in his apartment in 1999, saw Alibaba become Asia’s largest Internet company in September after a record-breaking $25 billion initial public offering in New York. Alibaba -- like competitors Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Baidu Inc. -- is trying to diversify and expand beyond China, investing in companies that do everything from book taxis and sell goods to develop software and make movies.
Alibaba posted revenue of 16.8 billion yuan ($2.7 billion) in the quarter ended Sept. 30, a 54 percent increase from a year earlier.
Chinese Internet companies face the challenge of building brand recognition overseas and attracting foreign customers while operating under increasingly strict censorship at home.
Alibaba wants to work with 10 million small businesses outside China with a goal of reaching 2 billion customers, Ma said. Maintaining users’ privacy was a top priority for the Hangzhou-based company.
“I say we are a business, the data is so precious,” he said. “If we give to anyone, it’s going to be a disaster.”
Ma also said he wasn’t worried about slowing growth in Alibaba’s home market. The Chinese economy expanded 7.4 percent last year, the slowest pace since 1990, and President Xi Jinping has been referring to a “new normal” of moderate expansion as China pursues structural changes to the economy.
“I don’t worry about it,” Ma said. “I think China’s slowing down is much better. China should pay attention to the quality of the economy.”
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