Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on April 27, 2020.
Imagine living in a society where your every move – both on and offline – is able to be monitored by the government. They can see everywhere you go, hear everything you say, and know everything about you, from who you hang out with to what you purchase at the store.
Now imagine that they take all of that information and add it up to give a score that can control your freedoms and opportunities throughout the country.
If you’re thinking that this is some made-up dystopian world in a Black Mirror episode, you’re wrong.
This is soon to be modern-day China.
China’s Social Credit Score
Set to be operating fully across the country by the end of 2020, China’s social credit system is one that tracks everything you do and say both on the internet and real-life and assigns you a reputation score, of sorts. Essentially, when you do good things, you are rewarded points, and when you do things the government deems less admirable, you have points taken away. Those with high scores will receive perks, such as:
- VIP treatment at hotels and airports
- Cheap loan options
- First-rate access to the country’s top universities
- Better opportunities for the best jobs
Those with low scores, however, will have difficulty doing anything. Travel, internet use, government jobs, and access to credit will be increasingly restricted. The person may even be subject to public shaming.
The use of this system is achieved by advanced surveillance cameras that use facial recognition, body scanning, and geo-tracking to follow each of their 1.4 billion citizens’ every move. Information will be collected using a smartphone app that monitors online activity, and government records like medical, educational, financial, and criminal records will also be factored in.
What makes a good or bad score?
It’s more complex than just doing right and wrong. There are several factors that influence a person’s score:
- What you buy: For example, too much alcohol will lower your score, items that suggest responsibility will raise it.
- Financial status and financial responsibility
- Who your friends and family are and what they do and say. For example, if your brother does something to lower his score, such as say something anti-government online, your score will also go down.
- Who you date and marry
- Donations and volunteering
- How often you visit aging parents
- What you say about the government online
- Perceived sincerity for crimes committed
- Cheating in online games
- School reports
These are just a few examples of what can affect someone’s score. More importantly, a child’s score is heavily impacted by their parent’s scores. A good score will get them a head start towards a stable future. A bad score… well, you get the idea.