Imagine a state which would rank its citizens with a score calculated based on numerous factors. Whilst that sounds like the plot for a Black Mirror episode*, it’s a reality in China. Privacy invasion or state innovation?
black mirror is a documentary pic.twitter.com/2y07t1Bgam— Netflix US (@netflix) February 13, 2018
The SCS or Social Credit System (社会信用体系) is a Chinese government initiative for developing a national reputation system. It is intended to assign a “social credit” rating to every citizen based on government data regarding their economic and social status. The project works as a mass surveillance tool and will be mandatory for every Chinese citizen by 2020.
The Chinese state is setting up a vast ranking system that will monitor the behavior of its entire population, and rank them all based on their “social credit.”
Each individual has a score calculated based on their personal credit history, behavioral habits, finances, demographics, social networks etc. In addition, this score will give them access (or not) to certain privileges on services such as car purchases, room rentals, hotel bookings, or even easier visa procedures to certain countries. However, low scores can even get individuals denied the use of certain facilities like trains and domestic flights.
* cf. Nosedive – Black Mirror (E01S03)
Bad driving, smoking in non-smoking zones, buying too many video games, posting fake news online, posting too much on social media and crossing the street at the red light are the kind of behaviors that could negatively affect your score.
Channel News Asia reported in March that nine million people with low scores have been blocked from buying tickets for domestic flights, three million people have been barred from getting business-class train tickets, others have been banned from some hotels or worse, barred from enrolling in higher education. Let’s not forget that surveillance cameras in China are all equipped to operate facial recognition.
[The Social Credit System] is a futuristic vision of Big Brother out of control.
– Rachel Botsman, author