Beijing will start rating its residents by their behaviour by 2021

Beijing has announced it’s planning to roll out China’s Social Credit Score (SCS) system across the city by the end of 2020.

Beijing will start rating its residents by their behaviour by 2021

As outlined on the megacity’s government site,  Beijing joins many other Chinese cities with similar plans to implement China’s infamous SCS system announced in 2014. Beijing’s SCS will combine statistics from various city departments, including tourism, business and transport, in order to form these scores. With a population of nearly 22 million, and the fourth-highest population density in China, Beijing is an important testbed for SCS for the country’s future plans.

The SCS system assigns ratings to citizens based on positive or negative behaviours, and assigns them punishments or rewards as a result. A citizen’s score can be boosted through charitable acts, such as voluntary work or donating blood, and lowered through crimes,such as speeding or underhand business tactics. Critics have been quick to point out that it could also be used to enforce the country’s firm censorship rules by lowering dissenters’ scores. In addition, several legal factors may result in lower scores, including spending too much time playing video games, or buying unnecessary products.

For citizens who drop too far with their score, a “blacklist system” is used as punishment to limit what they can do. For example, a blacklisted individual can’t purchase plane or train tickets as easily and could be prohibited from attending the best schools,  getting the best jobs or even booking hotels. On the other hand, there are “green channel benefits” for good citizens, which haven’t been detailed.

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A variety of technologies have been created to enhance the government’s tracking capabilities for the system, including facial recognition smart sunglasses and gait recognition AI. This allows the Chinese government to easily track its citizens. Again, many have been quick to suggest the government is overstepping its bounds by tracking its citizens to such a degree.

While the Chinese government’s attempts to monitor and control its citizens seems rather dystopian, its SCS perversely seems perhaps a little too simplistic. It resembles a video game’s honour system, in which many small simple actions (volunteering weekly at a charity shop) could counteract few major crimes (robbing a bank) and give the individual an overall good score. Beijing will be an important test to see how the system really works.

China isn’t the only country that’s taking steps to track its citizens. Earlier this month it was revealed that UK companies are looking to microchip their workers so, within the next couple of years, we too could be getting “good karma” for rating our local chippy on TripAdvisor.

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