Uber Ratings for Humans: Bad 'Social Credit' Will Get You Banned From Trains in China
If you thought erasing historical events like Tiananmen Square from search engines and instituting facial tracking across the country wasn't dystopian enough, China's got a new addition to its Orwellian arsenal: a 'social credit system' that may rate citizens on criteria that range from their shopping purchases to their public loyalty to the government to the quality of their friends. The system is still in beta right now, but starting in May those with bad credit, high debt, or minor criminal records may be banned from train and airplane travel.
China's plan for a social credit system was announced in 2014, with the goal of creating "a public opinion environment where keeping trust is glorious. It will strengthen sincerity in government affairs, commercial sincerity, social sincerity and the construction of judicial credibility."
It currently has eight companies working on proposals for the final system, including China Rapid Finance and Ant Financial Services Group, the latter of which has dubbed their system "Sesame Credit."
Each proposed credit system has its own algorithm to rate citizens, but the most disturbing is probably Sesame, which gives people a score from 350 to 950 based on factors like credit history and fulfillment of legal obligations, but also what kind of behaviors you exhibit—if you play too many video games, you can be labeled as "idle" and penalized. If you're friends with low-quality people, you're penalized. If you post negative messages about the Chinese government on social media, you're penalized.
Right now the social credit system is voluntary, but by 2020 it will become mandatory. Roughly 7 million people have already been punished by the beta system, and even small infractions (like smoking on a train) can be enough to ban someone from travel.
Eventually, it seems those with low social credit scores will have a harder time moving around, getting a mortgage or a job, or making friends—point by point, they'll be ostracized from society.
You can watch a video detailing the Sesame Credit below.