China is building an invasive social credit system to spy on citizens

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Your credit score is used to measure financial credibility — but in China, it’s used for much, much more

In Canada, the UK and most other western countries, credit scores are a tool used by banks to determine someone’s creditworthiness — whether or not they should receive a loan, credit card limit increase or student financing based on their previous history of paying off debt.

However the Chinese government is developing a broader “social credit” system, based partially on people’s behaviour with the ultimate goal of determining and gathering a more thorough status of the country’s billion-plus citizens. Introduced in 2014, the system is already in place throughout the country and is can be used to prevent people from buying or boarding planes and trains, accessing dating websites and even slow down your internet speeds. On the upside, those with higher scores are rewarded with lower energy bills and other perks.

The system is rolling out across the country — it isn’t optional so all citizens will have their own searchable file of data from public and private sources — and should be utilized nationwide by 2020. Given the nature of the government, this technology might be seen as a surveillance machine to ensure loyalty to the Communist Party.

External firms like Ant Financial, the finance arm of e-commerce behemoth Alibaba, launched a product dubbed Sesame Credit in 2015, acting as a credit and loyalty system all-in-one. Higher scores result in no-deposit apartment agreements, bike rentals, front-of-the-line privileges at hospitals, and better visibility on dating apps, while lower scores can be caused by cheating in computer games, attending public social gatherings or chasing celebrities to get an autograph.

If this doesn’t sound scary enough, the supreme court shares a “blacklist” of people who haven’t paid their court fines with Sesame Credit, allowing the firm to lower user’s scores until they cough up the money. Lower scores mean other penalties, too, such as banishment from good schools and government jobs or large banks and even having a pet dog taken away.

Not only is the country monitoring citizens inside its own borders, but also where they are globally — including data from companies that do business in China.

There’s a legitimate and justified concern that this system will end up becoming the backend for an authorianism environment, but could also be an effective way to improve the behaviour of delinquents and law-breakers without spending more on police.

Noteworthy Read

“People need to know that their free shipping comes at a human cost,” a former Amazon warehouse staffer told Vox in an interesting interview. “Workers constantly feel like their jobs are on the line, because they are” — the holiday season is especially difficult for warehouse workers who are being constantly monitored for efficiency and productivity, so keep that in mind when you’re doing your online shopping.

📸:  Wikimedia

📸: Wikimedia

Obsession Hiatus

Our newest obsession is the #InfluenceofChina — as the world’s second-biggest economy, it holds a lot of power. Throughout the world the effects and power that China holds can be seen, from domestic citizen surveillance, debt traps and playing dirty to get what it wants, the country has a far reach.

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Our best wishes for a productive and peaceful evening. Feel free to direct any Orwellian surveillance horror stories, Black Friday discount codes and safe places in Florence to eat sandwiches to our email.

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