Sci-Fi Fantasy Is Becoming The Stark Reality For China

The Better Business Bureau has a system of rating businesses based on past performance. What if you were rated as a person based on your conduct? People and businesses in China are getting social scores, and the system for assigning the scores sounds right out of a dystopian novel.

What’s Your Social Credit Score?

In China, a new system of scoring the actions of citizens is being slowly rolled out until it is nationwide by 2020. Each citizen and business will have a score. The scores will be connected with individual codes that are linked to the business and medical records of the person.

For actions that are considered good, the person’s score goes up. For actions that are considered bad, the score goes down. People with high scores get special incentives. People with low scores get punishments.

How The System Works

There are hundreds of millions of recording cameras already set up in cities around China. These strategically located cameras have the power to record a person’s every move.

As part of the social credit system, all of the cameras will be equipped with facial recognition software. The information gathered from the cameras will be cross-checked with other records to make sure that the right actions are being connected to the right face.

How Your Score Affects You

People with good scores receive advantages similar to the perks of being in an American rewards program like AAA. They get priority seating on public transportation. They get to skip lines in certain businesses, and they have access to better bank accounts.

The punishments for bad scores are more serious. One journalist who spoke out against the Chinese government has been fired from his job and is unable to get any other jobs in the journalism industry. All of his social media accounts have also been shut down. A common punishment for low scores seems to be restricted use of the Internet, and a person with an extremely low score can be ordered not to travel outside his or her city.

Impact On Businesses

The reach of the social credit system spans far beyond China’s borders. Since China is the most populated nation on Earth, international businesses have large operations in China. Recently, major airlines felt pressure from the new and controversial social credit system.

International airlines received letters from the Chinese government expressing anger about airlines referring to Taiwan as a country.  Businesses were threatened with lower social credit scores and reminded of the possible punishment. As a result, airlines in countries that recognize Taiwan as a nation now refer to it as a Chinese territory.

Public Perception

The social credit system is being compared to dystopian fiction, like Black Mirror and 1984, by foreign media, but the Chinese public has expressed approval of it.

The system is active in major Chinese cities, and citizens claim to enjoy the benefits. The world will certainly be watching to see the further implications of this controversial system.