The Chinese government is creating an electronic database that will be used to rate all of the country’s 1.3 billion citizens by the year 2020. Many factors will be used in the ratings. These factors include whether or not they pay their bills on time, how honest they are at school or work, whether or not they have a clean driving record, if they comply with birth control regulations, and more. Also, the people of China will not be able to opt-out of this government database.
The database is being named the Social Credit System, and authorities in China are saying that it will help the country deal with various social problems such as food and drug safety, corruption, counterfeiting, tax evasion, academic cheating and even defecating in public. The goals of the project include increasing sincerity, traditional virtues and trust and also raising the competitiveness of China. The country also hopes that the database will stimulate the progress of their civilization.
Of course, the situation is not as positive as Chinese officials are making it out to be. Most people view the situation as another way that China is becoming more of a police state and restricting the voices of its people. With the database, China will be watching its citizens closer than ever before. It’s not much of a surprise from one of the most authoritarian regimes on the planet.
Chinese political activist Hu Jia said, “The Chinese government already has a back door into everything on your phone and on the internet, so this isn’t exactly a new way to control people’s lives. What’s new is that Chinese authorities can systematically analyze all this data and China doesn’t have an Edward Snowden to focus the public’s attention on these privacy issues.”
The scores will be intended to be used by both government officials and everyday citizens. The government will use the scores to monitor corrupt officials and identify potential troublemakers. They also might reward good citizens through certain discounts. Meanwhile, everyday citizens will have access to the scores so that they can use them to decide everything from who they should conduct business with to who they should take on a date.
Oxford University scholar Rogier Creemers said, “A lot of data capture is there to overcome horrible problems of bad government, ranging from pollution and food security to corruption in education and badly delivered healthcare.”
However, Creemers also acknowledged that the government will have ample opportunity to abuse the data. It’s almost impossible to imagine that the system won’t be used to their advantage in some fashion. Some activists have even joked that China is no longer a police state, but rather a police empire.
Many people are saying that the Social Credit System is essentially a modern update of China’s longtime secret filing system. The government has reportedly kept secret files on hundreds of millions of its residents, keeping track of similar information. The system even monitors their political tendencies and what books they have read. Surprisingly, most Chinese people have said that they see no reason to look at their files because they have nothing to hide.
In fact, it almost seems like the Chinese are so accustomed to being monitored that they don’t even care about the new system that will be put into place. While Westerners would certainly be outraged if the government came forward and blatantly told us we were being monitored, many Chinese citizens don’t seem to mind. In the end, it’s just more of the same from China.