George Orwell’s 1984, Black Mirror: China’s Social Credit System Judges People as Good/Bad. Bad People Shamed on Digital Blacklist
Credit scores are not new. In countries like America, UK, Europe & Australia, companies use them to decide whether to lend people money or not.
In China, they’re using this Social Credit system to control their citizens using a Three Digit Social Ranking System. They started work on this in 2014.
How did the Chinese government collect all this information about their people? “Asking” Chinese tech companies like Alipay (owned by Ant Financial, affiliate of Alibaba) to help was easy. They enlisted China’s tech giants to help them create this social credit system by 2020. It’s already working in some cities.
China installed 20 million of the world’s best AI security cameras in 2015 as part of their Operation Sky Net to “initially” hunt for corrupt fugitive officials. It was extended to other people engaged in “suspicious” activities. China now has 200 million CCTV cameras everywhere, watching their people.
Alipay and WeChatpay have accumulated a lot of personal data about people on their systems. Alipay successfully marketed this Social credit system to the people as “Trust is fun. It would open new doors for you to join our system.” Each user began to create a social credit profile, unknowingly naive about the nasty side effects.
For the more than 200 million Alipay users who have opted in to Zhima Credit, the sell is clear: Your data will magically open doors for you.
If you’re a #good person, you’ll enjoy many privileges. If you’re unlucky to have a low score, you’re judged as a #bad person and must be punished.
For the Chinese Communist Party, social credit is an attempt at a softer, more invisible authoritarianism. The goal is to nudge people toward behaviors ranging from energy conservation to obedience to the Party.
China’s Big Brother program (disguised as social credit system) combines big data, surveillance, facial recognition and body tracking, to create digital profiles for each citizen.
“China is leading the world in facial recognition algorithms with its best algorithm able to recognize 10 million people without a single mistake in less than a second.”
In December 2017 when I wrote this post, in America, the FCC just voted to end Net Neutrality yesterday. Coincidence?
How China’s Social Credit System Works:
Rewards You for Good Behaviour
- Paying your fine on time (or preferably not to get fined in the first place)
- Helping an elderly person to cross the road or carry their groceries
- Not cheating in exams or not getting “help” with your assignments
- Having “good” people as your friends
- Doing a good job at work, pleasing your bosses
- Not saying anything bad about the government
- Not getting involved with activist groups
- Reporting bad or suspicious activities
- Obeying all party commands
Punishes You for Bad Behaviour (this can be very subjective)
- Consuming too much alcohol and getting drunk
- Speeding or breaking traffic laws
- Forgetting to pay fines or paying late
- Losing a court case even though you’re innocent
- Cheating at exams and paying someone to do your assignments
- Leaving your fiance at the altar
- Playing video games for too long
- Walking dogs without a lease in public
- Bad behaviour on the bus, train or plane
- Bad driving, not giving way, speeding
- Playing music loudly in public
- Your customers & suppliers complain about you
- Your boss, manager or colleagues complain about you
- Not attending school or skipping classes
- Writing graffiti on the walls of toilets and buildings
- Criticising party leaders
- Neighbours who don’t like your face, think you’re a criminal and plaster photos of your face on the walls?
- Neighbours complain about your cat (or dog) whining at night
- Corruption or fraud
- Bribing or attempting to bribe a government official
Notice how the “Bad” list is longer?
Even if you aren’t guilty of any of the above, if there is “evidence” against you, it can be almost impossible to reverse. You run the risk of being put in the “underclass” category of society. Refused entrance, blocked from most travels, you could only get the worst seats on the slowest trains. Next to the toilets.
An ad for Zhima Credit showed a businessman looking fearfully at strangers on the subway. Are they swinders or criminals? Back at the office, his staff plaster their conference room walls with photos of lowlifes and criminals. After he discovers Zhima Credit, they can tear down the photos. Now the photos of lowlifes and criminals can be found on a digital blacklist.
When China’s 1.4 billion citizens wake up from their trance, it will be too late. The government would have digital files for each one of them and there’s no escape. People with low credit cannot travel anywhere. They’re stuck.
Do you like this social credit system? Have you seen your government using it in your country?
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I write on #LinkedIn about #AI #automation #robots. The #futureofwork is a national & global emergency! Check my #futureproof jobs series where I explore new mindsets, trends & new jobs/industries. How to robot-proof your jobs. It won’t be easy and you’ve got to start early!