Privacy Invasion Big Time, in China

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For some time now, TV shows such as Black Mirror have tried to show us how technology could lead to an Orwellian state. It might sound daft when Black Mirror is just a TV show, but when you find out just how close some of the episodes are to reality, it becomes terrifying. Take the latest new ‘Social Credit’ system coming into place by 2020 in China: it’s essentially a mass surveillance system!

This system will monitor, track and follow every Chinese citizen – ranking them across various factors. They’ll then be given a score akin to a credit score, and will play a critical role in determining how someone gets on in life. From giving them VIP access to making it harder for them to get access to government facilities, including transportation, this new system sounds like a death knell for long-term privacy.

Depending on how you behave, your score could increase or decrease. The ranking system is supposed to help bring in what they call a “Secure Socialist Society” – but what kind of socialism is built on such monitoring?

Indeed, around 600 million high-tech cameras exist in China, monitoring the 1.4 billion inhabitants of the country. That’s 20x what the USA has for example. With around 9 million banned from getting air tickets and another 3 million banned from buying business class tickets, this new system is an absolutely haunting look into the future.

A new form of social control

This kind of governance goes far beyond we’ve ever seen outside of the most terrifying fiction. Some might think that sounds overblown, but this kind of service is easily one of the biggest forms of privacy intrusion that we have heard of.

With a score capped at 800, you can increase your score by doing stuff like taking part in charitable acts, paying your bills without delay and obeying the law. Good scores will give you benefits such as cheaper transport and better hospital services. Bad scores will exclude you from a great many different things.

Personally, I find the idea of ranking people on such static algorithms is outrageous. While I won’t pretend to be too knowledgeable on Chinese culture, it seems that the nation which had many great forms of social progress has just taken a massive regressive step backwards.

For some people, it’s a justifiable invasion of privacy for a nation that takes up over a seventh of the global population. If it shows even a slight level of ‘success’ in China, expect supposedly more liberal Western governments to continue adapting it as time goes on.

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