In place since 2014, China’s social credit system is a technology-enabled, surveillance-based nationwide program with the goal to “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step,” according to the Chinese government.
Fast Company describes China’s social credit system as “a work in progress that could evolve by next year into a single, nationwide point system for all Chinese citizens, akin to a financial credit score. It aims to punish for transgressions that can include membership in or support for the Falun Gong or Tibetan Buddhism, failure to pay debts, excessive video gaming, criticizing the government, late payments, failing to sweep the sidewalk in front of your store or house, smoking or playing loud music on trains, jaywalking, and other actions deemed illegal or unacceptable by the Chinese government.”
Punishments for those with poor social credit can include bans on leaving the country, using public transportation, checking into hotels, hiring for high-visibility jobs, or acceptance of children to private schools.
As disturbing as China’s social credit system may sound, big tech is working with the federal government to install policies that have many similarities to the social credit system in China. The New York State Department of Financial Services, for example, announced earlier this year that life insurance companies can base their premiums on what they find in your social media posts. Another example would be Uber, which now allows drivers to rate the passenger, who will get permanently banned if their rating falls below a certain level. Additionally, a company called PatronScan, which helps identify fake IDs and helps bar and restaurant owners manage customers, maintains a list of customers designed to block access to people previously removed for “fighting, sexual assault, drugs, theft, and other bad behavior,” according to its website. A “public” list is shared among all PatronScan customers. This means someone who’s banned by one bar in the U.S. is potentially banned by all the bars in the U.S.
While these examples are clearly much less drastic and oppressive than the tyrannical policies of China’s social credit system, it is a step towards those same policies. I have been saying for years that the relationship between Silicon Valley and Washington DC is very problematic. This is one of the worst things that could be developed and shared with the corrupt and oppressive DC machine.