Last month, China announced that it would begin to use “social credit” to restrict the ability of some citizens to travel due to an individual’s “trustworthiness,” which can be negatively impacted based on anything from neglecting to pay fines to jaywalking and smoking in non-smoking areas. The plan was largely compared to the “Nosedive” episode of Black Mirror — for good reason! — and this latest bit of news is no less troubling.
China now plans to expand the social credit program nationwide with plans to have 1.4 billion citizens monitored by the year 2020, as already 11 million Chinese are restricted from flying and another four million prohibited from trains. But now the program will extend beyond just travel, as those deemed to be untrustworthy by the Chinese government can be forbidden from purchasing property or even getting their children into certain schools.
The government says it is trying to “purify” society — which is never a word you want to hear coming from a sovereign government — by rewarding the trustworthy and punishing those who are not. Ways to elevate an individual’s person score is believed to be participating in community service and buying Chinese-made products, which can be rewarded with better interest rates and lower energy bills.
China is able to gain this Big Brother-esque intelligence on its own citizens using a network of 176 million surveillance cameras, with plans for that number to grow to 600 million over the course of the next four years.
“It can recognize more than 4,000 vehicles,” SenseTime CEO Xu Li said. SenseTime is one of China’s most successful artificial intelligence companies. It has created smart cameras for the government that can help catch criminals but also track average citizens.
“This knows every person, every bike, every car, every bus?” [CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy] asked him, watching a monitor. “We can tell whether it is an adult, a child, male or female,” Xu said.
China’s economic and political culture expert Ken DeWoskin stated the obvious, telling CBS News that the top secret scoring system “could be easily abused by the government.”
“I think that the government and the people running the plan would like it to go as deeply as possible,” noted DeWoskin, when asked how far into people’s daily mundane activities this could go. “To determine how to allocate benefits and also how to impact and shape their behavior.”
It sets a chilling precedent, that’s for sure.
(Via CBS News)