China Wants To Assign Every Citizen A Credit Score For Their Lives

Imagine if the authorities compiled a score based on your everyday actions, which followed you around and affected your ability to do everything from get your kid into college to booking a stay in a fancy hotel. While this sounds like a particular plot line from the most recent season of the Netflix series Black Mirror, it’s actually a new way that the Chinese government has devised to exert control over its citizens.

In this real-world application, a few local governments are trying out the idea of social credit scores. The Wall Street Journal spoke to a woman who got a $6 fine for using her son’s transit pass, but was warned that the infraction could affect her social credit score, affecting other areas of her life. It could even affect her son by limiting what schools he can get into in the future.

This is a system being tested locally in some cities now, and the Communist Party wants to deploy it nationwide by the end of the decade. Sure, the Party keeps files on every citizen, but the score is a way to make antisocial behavior affect them instantly and in more areas of their lives.

Spreading misinformation online (“misinformation” here being what the government considers to be false)? Jaywalking? Getting pregnant with an unauthorized additional kid? Neglecting one’s elderly parents? All of these are offenses that would become part of a “social credit” score, which the government uses to decide citizens’ worthiness for a variety of services.

Normal credit score infractions like paying a loan back late count too, of course, but compiling things like pedestrian crimes, birth control failures, and online activities is new and a bit frightening.

Human rights activists in China and around the world find this just a little bit terrifying. If you don’t, ponder one of the program’s slogans: according to the WSJ, planning documents repeat that the scores would “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.”

(via Technology Review)

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