The social credit system was created in China in 2014 to access citizens’ business, economic and social reputation. The government tracks citizens and gives them a score based on their actions.
It will be adopted nationwide in 2020 but the system started use in 2018 in certain parts of China.
“A social credit system will soon go into effect across China, where every citizen will be scored based on their behavior. Good actions like volunteering and bad like littering are tracked and there are real consequences for a high or low score,” according to a report by NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt.
Potential scores are on a scale of 350 to 950, with anything from 700 or above considered excellent scores, denoting the person is a “good citizen.” Benefits of having a good score include getting discounts on bills, renting without deposits, lower interest rates and more matches on dating sites.
Being publically labeled as a “bad citizen,” getting barred from traveling by plane or train, being prohibited from the best jobs and schools and having internet speeds slowed down are consequences of having a bad score.
Wired has compared the system and its consequences to an episode from the TV show “Black Mirror.”
The social credit system affects 1.4 billion citizens of China, and a Washington Post poll reveals that 80% of those surveyed approve of it, and 1% disapproves.
“I feel like in the past six months, people’s behavior has gotten better and better,” a 32-year-old entrepreneur, who only gave his name as Chen said in an interview with Business Insider. “For example, when we drive, now we always stop in front of crosswalks. If you don’t stop, you will lose your points. At first, we just worried about losing points, but now we got used to it.”
The country has multiple surveillance cameras all over the area and is using big data techniques such as drawing on information from banks, mobile phone companies and e-commerce firms to track their deeds.
Something similar to the system in the west is Facebook’s recently created trustworthiness system, created in an effort to crack down on fake news and misinformation.
The company gives users a score based on what they post, and those with high trustworthiness will have their flagged posts and news articles forwarded to third-party fact-checkers for review, while those with low trust ratings will be ignored. However, this information is invisible to the public.
A western parallel to the system is the way the U.S. financial credit system works. A low credit score blocks citizens from buying homes and cars, denies applications for loans and subjects them to higher interest rates and insurance premiums based on their actions.
The world will be watching when the social credit system goes into full effect at some point next year.