GIM Hall Of Fame
- Mar 28, 2010
- Reaction score
- Rocky Mountains
The complicated truth about China's social credit systemChina's social credit system isn't a world first but when it's complete it will be unique. The system isn't just as simple as everyone being given a score though
China's social credit system has been compared to Black Mirror, Big Brother and every other dystopian future sci-fi writers can think up. The reality is more complicated — and in some ways, worse.
The idea for social credit came about back in 2007, with projects announced by the government as an opt-in system in 2014. But there's a difference between the official government system and private, corporate versions, though the latter's scoring system that includes shopping habits and friendships is often conflated with the former.
Brits are well accustomed to credit checks: data brokers such as Experian trace the timely manner in which we pay our debts, giving us a score that's used by lenders and mortgage providers. We also have social-style scores, and anyone who has shopped online with eBay has a rating on shipping times and communication, while Uber drivers and passengers both rate each other; if your score falls too far, you're out of luck.
China's social credit system expands that idea to all aspects of life, judging citizens' behaviour and trustworthiness. Caught jaywalking, don't pay a court bill, play your music too loud on the train — you could lose certain rights, such as booking a flight or train ticket. "The idea itself is not a Chinese phenomenon," says Mareike Ohlberg, research associate at the Mercator Institute for China Studies. Nor is the use, and abuse, of aggregated data for analysis of behaviour. "But if [the Chinese system] does come together as envisioned, it would still be something very unique," she says. "It's both unique and part of a global trend."
What is China's social credit system?
China's social credit system isn't a world first but when it's complete it will be unique. The system isn't just as simple as everyone being given a score though