In China It Will Be Possible To Rate People: The Good Citizen Card

Good Citizen Card

Establish a rating system in which each person is scored and that the amount of points we have affects our life. Even in a society like ours, where we are often concerned about other people’s opinions of us, this idea can seem exaggerated and more like science fiction than reality. In fact, it is a concept that we can see in series like Black Mirror (in its chapter “Plummet”), in literature (Orwell’s 1984) or in video games. However, it is something that has been considered to be carried out in reality.

In fact, facing 2020 It is proposed to happen in China, with the Zhima Credit System and the good citizen card

Big Brother comes to China

The concept of Big Brother was born in the novel 1984 by Orwell, an author who presented a future in which citizens were continuously monitored, being watched and controlled in such a way that everything they do and say is observed and valued. This idea has expanded among the population until it is used to refer to those situations in which there is extreme control and manipulation of the population’s behavior. And it is something that could happen in China when the system that concerns us in this article is implemented.

For some years now, China has proposed and approved the implementation of a system that allows, through the extensive network of cameras that cover the country, assess the actions of citizens based on currently secret criteria and algorithms.

The process in question is not something that has already been definitively established, but is open to changes depending on whether different variables appear and successes and errors are seen that must be modified. In this sense, The government has provided permits to eight private companies to generate a system based on algorithms dedicated to the control and scoring of the population’s actions, with Alibaba’s Zhima or Sesame Credit system being one of the most active and popular (along with the company China Rapid Finance) in generating an algorithm based on various criteria.

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Among these criteria we could find the financial history (do you pay the bills? Do you ask for credit?), the ability to satisfy contractual obligations (efficiency and effectiveness at work), personal characteristics and behavior and preferences. This means that the economic capacity, work productivity of each citizen, what they buy and what they don’t, their habits and tastes, and I would reward and punish him for it.

Participation in this program is, for the moment, voluntary. However, it is proposed that starting in 2020 it will be mandatory for every person and legal entity in China. Thus, the entire country will have a social assessment as a citizen, their actions being scored and controlled.

Of course, this initiative is subject to numerous criticisms and controversies, since It supposes almost total control of citizens by the authorities and being subject to criteria unknown to the majority. After all: what does it mean to be a good citizen? The answer to this question is subject to great subjectivity.

Facial recognition surveillance

To work, this system requires an intricate system of cameras that cover the cities, as well as software that allows facial recognition And the truth is that both elements are already established in China: there is, for example, the possibility of buying or withdrawing money from banking entities based on the analysis of their features, without requiring cards, with systems such as Face++.

It is also used in a punitive way: in some cities we can see how there are large electronic signs where The faces of citizens who have been recorded committing some imprudence are shown regarding automobile traffic, whether pedestrians or drivers, as a public ridicule (it is necessary to pay to remove their image).

These are useful systems in different ways, whose application has allowed the arrest of multiple criminals and suspects. It makes it easier to locate them and know what they have done and when. It also makes something like purchasing simpler, not requiring elements such as cards to pay and reducing the probability of theft (although there is also the risk of hacking the system).

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Likewise, the idea of ​​controlling information about some aspects of citizens’ lives is neither new nor exclusive to China. For example, in the United States there are reports on credit and financial efficiency and reliability that may have repercussions when obtaining credits or evaluating conditions

What is pioneering and controversial about this initiative is the fact of applying it to the entire population in a generalized way, and the idea of ​​assessing how good or bad a citizen one is, with this assessment having much more subjective overtones. Furthermore, said control would be exercised continuously throughout the subject’s entire life, in all areas in which it could be recorded.

Our score has consequences on a daily basis

The score and evaluation that citizens may have will not be something merely anecdotal, but will have consequences.

As stated, the people with low social value could see how their access to the Internet is less and low speed, and access to different leisure systems, services and products (going to the cinema or certain restaurants for example, or enrolling their children in private schools) or specific rights (getting a passport, accessing some jobs or access the right to use some methods of transportation), will also be limited if conduct considered inappropriate is carried out. For example, someone with a very low rating would not be able to access fields related to legality, civil law or journalism.

On the other hand, those with a higher score could have multiple benefits in addition to being socially valued better: They may, for example, have priority to obtain visas and will be exempt from having to leave a deposit on hotels or rent an apartment (although this only applies to some cities).

It is a system that has been described by the government as a method so that those worthy of trust and appreciation can act freely while those who do not deserve said trust and commit different crimes have difficulties acting as they please. This concept can be dangerous, anywhere on the globe: specific dissidences or ideologies could easily be repressed and punished and even scientific advances contrary to the opinion or interests of classes closer to power could be restrained.

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Altering behavior

In addition to the above, this scoring system may have other types of risks: profoundly altering our behavior, even where surveillance does not reach.

The main advantage is that security is increased when it comes to blood crimes, and the possibility of breaking the law is also decreased, which could lead to reducing recklessness such as those that lead to a traffic accident.

The adverse consequences are clear. There is a loss of freedom and privacy leaving the entirety of our behavior exposed and constantly being judged by other people whose ideas do not necessarily correspond to ours.

Also non-criminal or harmful behavior can be judged, as individual social and personal habits and divergences from the norm could be harmed. Likewise, spontaneity would be lost and every act would become much more controlled, due to fear of possible reprisals. This subjects the citizen to high pressure in all areas of his life, generating stress and anxiety that can reduce his abilities and even damage his health.

Another element to take into account is the possible desperate search for social approval the evaluation and score that we had could be taken to an obsessive or histrionic point: although in principle the score itself is not shared with the rest of the citizens, the fact of being valued in a better or worse way will make some people look above all approval, compulsively and desperately.

Finally, we can find another risk: the sale of our data to third parties so that they benefit and try to attract us to their products. Although this is something that is normally carried out when entering different websites and social networks, this already requires an implicit acceptance that these websites have at least part of our information and is not something that is carried out by the mere fact.