The Great Database of China: Rating Moral Behavior, Blacklisting Citizens

from the really-bad-credit-score dept

The Great Firewall of China is well known; a report in the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant discusses a translation by Rogier Creemers of China’s new Social Credit System plan — a national store of citizens’ ratings that promises to become the Great Database of China:

The intentions of the new system are not only economical, fighting fraudulent practices, but also moral. ‘This is a deliberate effort by the Chinese government to promote among its citizens “socialist core values” such as patriotism, respecting the elderly, working hard and avoiding extravagant consumption’, says Creemers. A bad ‘credit code’ can result in being not eligible for certain jobs, housing or credit to start a company. ‘On the labour market you might need a certain score to get a specific job.’

Here are some details about how this would apply to online activities:

Forcefully move forward the construction of online sincerity, foster ideas of running the Internet according to the law and using the Internet in a sincere manner, progressively implement the online real-name system, perfect legal guarantees for the construction of online credit, forcefully move forward the construction of online credit supervision and management mechanisms.

The “online real-name system” is something we’ve written about before. A small consolation here is that China has been trying to bring this in for over a decade; its continuing failure to do so offers hope that the Great Database of China might be even harder to construct.

Establish online credit evaluation systems, evaluate the credit of the operational behaviour of Internet enterprises and the online behaviour of netizens, and record their credit rank. Establish network credit files covering Internet enterprises and individual netizens, vigorously move forward with the establishment of exchange and sharing mechanisms for online credit information and corresponding credit information in other areas, forcefully promote the broad application of online credit information in various areas of society.

The following section of the planned Social Credit System is particularly chilling:

Establish online credit black list systems, list enterprises and individuals engaging in online swindles, rumourmongering, infringement of other persons? lawful rights and interests and other grave acts of breaking trust online onto black lists, adopt measures against subjects listed on black lists including limitation of online conduct and barring sectoral access, and report them to corresponding departments for publication and exposure.

As well as the sheer ambition of this database, which would cover the entire population of China, another novel aspect is where some of the ratings will come from, as de Volkskrant explains:

Innovative will be the active contribution of citizens rating other citizens. ‘Imagine a Chinese person being able to rate his doctor or his professor, as is already happening in the US. And he or she might also give a bad score to polluting companies, as the system will be applied to companies and institutions as well’, says Creemers.

Of course, online rating systems are already commonplace in other fields. There, they have led to fierce arguments and costly legal battles. The proposed system in China probably won’t suffer from those problems, since the Social Credit System will presumably be secret. However, it will be far more insidious since the resulting “credit score” will have a major impact on people’s lives and the opportunities open to them, notably for anyone that finds themselves — unbeknownst — on one of those blacklists.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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Comments on “The Great Database of China: Rating Moral Behavior, Blacklisting Citizens”

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16 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: They're simply copying the US

This? This is far worse.

Currently, our blacklists only prevent you from traveling. We’ve already seen the US government use those no-fly lists to pressure people “into becoming informants”. Think about if they had the power to keep you from the rest of your life too.

… drone strikes excepted, of course. They can do that too, in which case the rest of your life isn’t all that long.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: They're simply copying the US

Currently, our blacklists only prevent you from traveling.

Not true, there are financial blacklists too; e.g., List of individuals sanctioned during the Ukrainian crisis. Also, the scope of government security screening (related to classified information) expands all the time, and people who don’t pass don’t get certain jobs.

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