Beginning this May, China will begin to gradually usher in a new structure called the Social Credit System, designed to maintain social order without considering the far-reaching consequences it may eventually cause in the future.
The massive new social credit system will ultimately assign a fluctuating credit score to each and every Chinese citizen with the purpose of rewarding high scorers and punishing low scorers. Yes, this sounds pretty paranoid. To explain myself:
Imagine a world where many of your daily activities were constantly monitored and evaluated — what you buy at the shops and online; where you are at any given time; who your friends are and how you interact with them; how many hours you spend watching content or playing video games; and what bills and taxes you pay (or not).
It’s not hard to picture, because most of that already happens, thanks to all those data-collecting behemoths like Uber, Google, Facebook and Instagram or health-tracking apps such as Fitbit.
But now imagine a system where all these behaviours are rated as either positive or negative and distilled into a single number, according to rules set by the government. That would create your Citizen Score and it would tell everyone whether or not you were trustworthy.
Plus, your rating would be publicly ranked against that of the entire population and used to determine your eligibility for a mortgage or a job, where your children can go to school – or even just your chances of getting a date. In other words, it’s like Yelp for people.
For instance, people with low ratings will have slower internet speeds; restricted access to restaurants, nightclubs or golf courses; and the removal of the right to travel freely abroad with, I quote, “restrictive control on consumption within holiday areas or travel businesses”.
Citizens with low scores will not be hired by certain employers and will be forbidden from obtaining some jobs, including in the civil service, journalism and legal fields, where of course you must be deemed trustworthy.
Earlier this month, 17 military personnel who decided they were fed up with their daily duties were blacklisted in China’s social credit system, restricting them from traveling by air and rail and from seeking civil service employment.
They will also be barred from taking out loans and insurance policies, prohibited from enrolling in educational institutions for two years, and fined an unspecified amount of money.