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However, at present the system prioritizes compiling and sharing public record-type data such as licensing, other regulatory information, and adverse court decisions on adults in key areas.


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Again, that misconception typically arises from conflating private commercial rewards programs , which do consider shopping and social behaviors in assigning their own credit scores to customers who opt in to the program, with the government-sponsored social credit system. There are plenty of legitimate concerns. The massive amounts of data being compiled and shared heighten the dangers of hacking and leaking personal and other confidential information. Information security is a huge problem in China. In a recent survey, 85 percent of respondents reported they had suffered data leaks ranging from phone numbers to bank account details.

National and local social credit and other documents do call for enhanced information security and privacy protections.


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  • However, China does not yet have an overarching privacy law or the ability to enforce these protections. The standards for getting put on blacklists, managed by different departments at multiple levels to enforce rules within their jurisdiction, are not always clear.

    The targets are not always notified and given a chance to contest the listing. The technical challenges of running such a sprawling, complex system efficiently and minimizing mistakes are mind-boggling. However, the Chinese party-state has many other tools to address public and political security issues. Moreover, given the diverse standards for assessing legal noncompliance and landing on any particular social credit blacklist, it would be challenging to devise a global score that would have a meaningful regulatory impact.

    Her work focusses on governance and regulatory developments in China, including government transparency, public participation, and government accountability. Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola. The United States needs to build global alliances while demarcating clear areas of trust and competition with China. Sign up for free access to 1 article per month and weekly email updates from expert policy analysts. Create a Foreign Policy account to access 1 article per month and free newsletters developed by policy experts.

    Thank you for being an FP Basic subscriber. To get access to this special FP Premium benefit, upgrade your subscription by clicking the button below. Thank you for being an FP reader. To get access to this special FP Premium benefit, subscribe by clicking the button below. View Comments. Tags: Argument , China , technology. More from Foreign Policy. Report Keith Johnson. The U.

    The BEST way to begin building your Credit Score for FREE (For Beginners)

    Argument Tim Roemer. Argument James Palmer. Top U. While facial recognition is infamously used to spot jaywalkers, in some cities it's not so automated, Ohlberg notes. Private projects, such as Sesame Credit, hoover up all sorts of data on its million customers, from how much time they spend playing video games that's bad to whether they're a parent that's good.

    Why do only some accounts get reported?

    That can be shared with other companies. One infamous example is Sesame Credit linking up with the Baihe dating site, so would be partners can judge each other on their looks as well as their social credit score; that system is opt-in. So far, taking part in both the private and government versions is technically voluntary; in the future, the official social credit system will be mandatory. That said, there's plenty of pressure to take part now. Liu Hu is a journalist in China, writing about censorship and government corruption.

    Because of his work, Liu has been arrested and fined — and blacklisted. Liu found he was named on a List of Dishonest Persons Subject to Enforcement by the Supreme People's Court as "not qualified" to buy a plane ticket, and banned from travelling some train lines, buying property, or taking out a loan.

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    They just cut me off from the things I was once entitled to," he told The Globe and Mail. You can report to no one. You are stuck in the middle of nowhere. What recourse is there? With the government system, if you want to be removed from a blacklist, you can either pay your bill or appeal to the court, says Jing Zeng, a researcher at the University of Zurich.

    However, the Chinese justice system leaves much to be desired, says Hoffman. Regulations that can be largely apolitical on the surface can be political when the Communist Party of China CCP decides to use them for political purposes. The system used to pressure the airlines was a pilot of the Civil Aviation Industry Credit Measures, which is part of the official social credit system.

    Alongside the potential for abuse of power, the knock-on effects of statewide surveillance, and the likelihood of incorrect data, Ohlberg notes the a few bad marks on a social credit record could spark a negative spiral. While it varies by programme, in some local pilots a positive rating means discounts and benefits, such as a simplified process with bureaucracies. If you have a low rating, you may have extra paperwork or fees. It's all about building trust, says the Chinese government. The document describing the government's plans note that as "trust-keeping is insufficiently rewarded, the costs of breaking trust tend to be low.

    What is a credit rating?

    And Chinese society does have trust issues, says Ohlberg, be it food quality scandal, pollution, or employees not paying their workers. Zeng says that can include food safety and product quality, major problems in the country. Plus, it could help build alternative means of financial credit, says Ohlberg, as many people in China live outside financial systems, so have no trustworthy credit rating. Hoffman isn't buying that argument, saying such a system is about government power. She adds that social credit is a tech-enabled way to tie political power to social and economic development that's been discussed in the country since the s, an automation of Chairman Mao's Mass Line — a term to describe how the party's leadership shaped and managed society.

    China's social credit scheme is developing, but it is only one part of the country's surveillance state.

    The Game of Life: Visualizing China's Social Credit System

    As well as tight controls on the web content which is available, through the country's national firewall, there is monitoring and censorship of social media. Ahead of the year anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests researchers at the University of Hong Kong found that critical posts on the social networks of Weibo and Wechat were removed.


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    • Leading video platforms also all simultaneously turned off comments saying system upgrades were needed. There have also been crackdowns on the use of VPNs , which can help protect people's privacy online. The country has developed advanced facial recognition systems that are able to follow people across entire cities. In a show of power at the end of , Chinese officials working in co-operation with BBC News showed how it could track down and find one of the organisation's reporters within seven minutes.

      The movements of journalist John Sudworth were monitored as the country's network of million CCTV cameras was leveraged to follow him. More worryingly, the region of Xinjiang, in the north west of the country has become a test bed for China's vast digital control operations. In particular, the largely Muslim minority of Uighur people has been subjected to increased surveillance and discrimination.

      Living Without a Credit Score

      It has been uncovered that more than , face scans of Uighurs have been conducted. The full extent of the impact on social credit to Chinese citizens is impossible to say, simply because the system doesn't fully exist yet. Zeng suggests the reality is somewhere between the government's claims and the Western media's description of horror-filled dystopias.

      Ohlberg agrees that early reporting had multiple errors that led to misunderstandings of the system — but that doesn't mean social credit isn't dangerous. Because of that, no other country should be considering this idea, says Hoffman.