Late to pay that utility bill? If you live in China, eventually someone might keep track of it, and then share your little transgression with dozens of other institutions.
China is very good at collecting data on its citizens, and it’s experimenting with using it to tally a moral score for each person–a move that is not necessarily unwelcome in a society that yearns for a return to a more ethical framework.
A low score could come from jaywalking, for example, or not paying a fine, or hanging out with “trouble making” organizations. It could mean you can’t get first-class tickets on trains, or you can’t book a flight. Your access to hotels may be limited.
High scores are earned by doing good deeds, like donating blood and giving money to charity. A high score could help with getting an upgrade on a hotel room or better access to doctors or more exposure on a dating site. It could help with getting loans or gaining admission to some schools.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence described it as “an Orwellian system premised on controlling virtually every facet of human life.”
While Americans bristle at a lack of privacy from the government, in a recent study Chinese citizens are shown to be more tolerant of this collection of data. Is the social credit system a reasonable approach to improving China’s society? Check out the debate here.
Also, geek out on a simple explanation of China’s social contract.