China is set to implement a social credit system that will rate each of its citizens on a publicly available scale. Officially known as the Social Credit Score or SCS, the system is likely to be implemented by 2020.
It works by giving each citizen a score based on their daily interactions and financial decisions, the score can be affected by debt, spending habits and even social interactions. Obviously, to get this kind of score that will be somewhat compared to a person's trustworthiness, there will need to be a huge amount of individual monitoring and data collection. The SCS is expected to be rolled out in 2020, but there will be a large scale trial period from now until then so the system can be at optimal functionality when it goes live on its 1.3 billion citizens.
System will be trialed in collaboration with big business
The trial will be conducted by voluntary collaboration between the government and several large private companies that include China Rapid Finance, which is a partner of social network giant Tencent, and Sesame Credit, a subsidiary of Alibaba affiliate company Ant Financial Services Group (AFSG). These firms control huge amounts of data that could be potentially used as part of the scoring system. Rapid Finance through the popular messaging app “WeChat” which has over 850 million users and Sesame Credit via the AliPay payment service. Local media has reported that the SCS is already available via the Tencent’s QQ chat app. An individual can see their score which is in a range between 300 and 850. The total score is created from a total score made up from five different categories: social connections, consumption behavior, security, wealth, and compliance.
Critics say government has too much control
Unsurprisingly the system has both its critics and its fans. The government also says the SCS will “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.” In some eyes this is a great concept, meaning that those already heavily in debt cannot possibly take in more under the new system. But the system is about much more than debt management. Rather than focusing solely on a person's actual income and history, the rating takes into other factors and then uses these to give an overall score that may not always be a true reflection of reality. Anurag Lal, former Director of the U.S. National Broadband Task Force for the FCC under the Obama administration and president and CEO of mobility solutions firm Infinite Convergence, made some comments on the proposed system saying: “China’s proposed social score is an absolute reaffirmation of China continuing to push forward to be a complete police state. They take it a step further by becoming not only an establishment of a totalitarian police state that monitors its people but one that completely evades users’ privacy. All forms of activity and interactions, online or otherwise, will be rated, available to view and stored as data.”
If this idea of a personal rating seems a little familiar perhaps you have seen the dystopic Netflix series, Black Mirror. In season three of the show, one particularly dark episode ran through a scenario where highly rated citizens were afforded more rights than their lowly counterparts with devastating consequences.