China tests using credit scores for social control

Chinacredit1433817334738_646Source: China Daily.

Chinese authorities are experimenting with a new method of social control.

It is a credit score generated by Big Data methods that evaluates not only a person’s financial record, but everything that could throw light on their moral character, including associations and lifestyle choices.

A good credit score would give a person not only certain privileges, but prestige.  Conformity would be induced not through threats and punishments, but through positive reinforcement.

Last year the Chinese government announced it is working on something called a “social credit system” to enhance “sincerity discipline” in government, commerce and society in general, which is scheduled to be launched in 2020.

More recently a Chinese credit card company started testing a credit rating system that will use social media to gather information not only on people’s finances, but their hobbies, shopping habits, overall lifestyle and interactions with friends.

Based on that, the person will be given a rating of between 350 to 950 that not only determine their access to credit, but other privileges as well.

Some analysts think the two systems will come together to produce a system of total Orwellian surveillance, a kind of incentive-based totalitarianism.

Every aspect of a Chinese person’s life, including political opinions and friendships, would be fed into the system, which would produce a numerical score based on an algorithm.   That score in turn would be the basis for rewards and punishments that would shape the person’s whole life.

Now this is speculative.   I don’t know that the Chinese government actually has this in mind.

The scary thing is that it is perfectly feasible, not only for China but for Russia, the USA or any other government.

And not only governments.  It could be used by employers, insurance companies, banks, college admissions oficers or any other institution that whose decisions affect peoples’ lives.

The Chinese are said to embrace this system, and boast of getting high scores.  I can imagine Americans doing exactly the same thing.   Why threaten troublemakers with prison when you can nudge them into conformity.


Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System (2014-2020), a translation of a Chinese State Council Notice.

Mainland credit-rating network takes shape by Chai Hau for China Daily.

China Is Building The Mother of All Reputation Systems To Monitor Citizen Behavior by Ben Schiller for Fast Company.

In China, Your Credit Score Is Now Affected By Your Political Opinions—And Your Friends’ Political Opinions by Rick Falkvinge for Privacy Online News.

China’s Nightmarish Citizen Scores Are a Warning for Americans by Jay Stanley for the American Civil Liberties Union.

China’s ‘citizen scores’ system isn’t so Orwellian … yet by C. Custer for Tech in Asia.

It could be worse by Charles Stross for Charlie’s Diary.

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