If you have too much debt and bad credit, it may be tough to get credit cards and loans. The idea is that people who are less likely to pay pack lenders get less credit.
Well imagine if there was a social credit system. But it was the government that used it to decide who could travel, or live in certain apartments. Imagine if your social credit was too low to send your kids to a private school, or get a better job.
But what kind of behavior would warrant such a score?
China is about to answer all our questions.
The country has a pilot program for a social credit system. The government will rate citizens based on how loyal they are to the State. Already almost 10 million Chinese citizens have been blacklisted.
The Chinese government has ultimate control over their citizens’ lives because almost everything requires the national ID card. And the number assigned to citizens can simply be restricted for whatever the government wants to take away.
The Chinese media refers to those on the list as deadbeats.
Chinese citizens will be rated on their real life and online behavior for things like patriotism, hard work, and avoiding materialism. The system will aggregate all available data, taking into account what books citizens read, what they buy, and how long they spend playing video games.
Bad social credit would eliminate the possibility of starting a business, staying in luxury hotels, and buying or renting property.
Not only will big data be used to rate the citizens, China will also rely on peer ratings. It is the ultimate social governance; making citizens police their neighbors.
By 2020, adults will all have an assigned social credit score in addition to their identity card.
China’s President Xi has consolidated his power and solidified it by recently abolishing term limits for the office. He has stacked the main legislative council with his supporters. It is a one-party communist state which looks increasingly like the dystopian world in 1984.
Monitoring online activity is a huge focus for China, which blocks certain social media websites, and has jailed government critics. Of course, this surveillance all started in the name of thwarting criminals and terrorists.
Algorithms will track citizens online to decide if they are worthy of social credit.
Online behaviour will inevitably be a big part of what is monitored, and algorithms will be key to everything, though there remain doubts about whether something so ambitious will ever come to full fruition. One of the scheme’s basic aims is to use a vast amount of data to create individual ratings, which will decide people’s access – or lack of it – to everything from travel to jobs.
The Chinese notion of credit – or xinyong – has a cultural meaning that relates to moral ideas of honesty and trust. There are up to 30 local social credit pilots run by local authorities, in huge cities such as Shanghai and Hangzhou and much smaller towns. Meanwhile, eight ostensibly private companies have been trialling a different set of rating systems, which seem to chime with the government’s controlling objectives…
Using a secret algorithm, Sesame credit constantly scores people from 350 to 950, and its ratings are based on factors including considerations of “interpersonal relationships” and consumer habits. Bluntly put, being friends with low-rated people is bad news. Buying video games, for example, gets you marked down. Participation is voluntary but easily secured, thanks to an array of enticements. High scores unlock privileges such as being able to rent a car without a deposit, and fast-tracked European visa applications. There are also more romantic benefits: the online dating service Baihe gives people with good scores prominence on its platforms.
In China, the government will ultimately control the system. That way they can shape the type of citizens they want. They will reward those loyal to the State, and punish those who cause the state trouble or fail to contribute enough to the national cause.
But that the west is not immune from a similar system.
Three years ago Facebook patented a system of credit rating that would consider the financial histories of people’s friends. Opaque innovations known as e-scores are used by increasing numbers of companies to target their marketing, while such outfits as the already infamous Cambridge Analytica trawl people’s online activities so as to precisely target political messaging.
Mark Zuckerberg quite admires China in fact. He has tried to cozy up to the regime in hopes of opening up the Facebook market to another fifth of the world’s population.
When the government controls most aspects of life, it becomes very dangerous to go against them. The government will control who will be acceptable socially–and economically–and who will be ostracized.
Eventually, everyone will mimic the behavior the government rewards. They will create a new citizen.
Even scarier is the fact that citizens will have the ability to rate other citizens. This means you better not get on somebody’s bad side. Anything that deviates from the norm, any unique quirk, or unpopular opinion can now have a serious negative effect on all aspects of life in China.
You better join a local club, salute the flag, and remember to share with your neighbors, comrade.
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