Joe Pinkstone — Daily Mail Aug 22, 2018
All of China‘s 1.4 billion citizens are about to be put under greater scrutiny as the country prepares to launch its ‘social credit score’ scheme.
The project rates citizens based on their behaviour, and those who do not play by the rules are added to a list that prohibits them from certain luxuries.
Fears are growing regarding the ethical implications of scheme, with some questioning the morality of the big-brother culture.
The government is likely to use its rapidly growing surveillance network to enforce the system, with some academics growing concerned that it may be manipulated to enforce the ideology of the ruling Communist party.
Completing community service and buying Chinese products is thought to improve it whereas fraud, tax evasion and smoking in non-smoking areas can drop it.
Benefits of cooperating with the state include priority public housing, travel visas and job promotions.
One journalist says he is banned from sending his children to private school or buying property after a court ordered him to apologize for an unfavourable tweet about the regime.
This is all made possible by the ever-increasing network of surveillance cameras in the Asian country.
Xu Li, CEO of Sensetime, one of China’s most successful artificial intelligence companies, said: ‘It can recognise more than 4,000 vehicles.
‘We can tell whether it is an adult, a child, male or female.’
China launched a pilot version of the scheme in 2010 in a province just north of Shanghai.
This pilot system provides incentives for those with a high social credit score such as priority access to public housing, travel visas and job promotions.
The system is currently labelled as optional but the Chinese government plans to make it mandatory and publicly available by 2020.
Liu Hu, a journalist in China, told CBS News that when he tried to book a flight, he was told he was banned from flying because he was on a list of untrustworthy people.
Mr Liu was issued a court order to apologise for a series of tweets he wrote and was then told his apology was insincere.
As a result, his score dropped and he found himself on the list of undesirables.
‘I can’t buy property. My child can’t go to a private school,’ he said.
‘You feel you’re being controlled by the list all the time.’
According to Ken Dewoskin, an expert in China’s economic and political culture, revealed in an interview the damage and implications this system could have.
He says how the new scoring system truly works is kept secret and could be easily abused by the government.
Mr Dewoskin said: ‘The government and the people running the plan would like it to go as deeply as possible to determine how to allocate benefits and also how to impact and shape their behaviour.’
The system has raised many ethical concerns around the world, with scholars debating the morale issues created by such a universal and publicly accessible database.
Experts published research last year in the journal Marketing Intelligence and Planning which looked at how the gamification of life would affect people.
They claim the system could be manipulated by the government to create universal conformity to the ideologies presented by the ruling communist party.
Audrey Murrell, Director of the David Berg Center for Ethics and Leadership at the University of Pittsburgh writes in an article for Forbes: ‘It is one thing to reward positive behaviour, but one could argue that the introduction of penalties for ‘untrustworthiness’ produces consequences for lack of adherence to government-mandated social behaviours.’