China bans people with bad “social credit” from planes and trains

WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

Technology is a tool, it’s down to governments and individuals how they use and deploy it, and as such it can be used to do great good, or great harm.

 

In another nod to Black Mirror, and to show it isn’t just a sci-fi anthology series but instead a glimpse into our actual future, China is extending its recently announced Social Credit Scoring System to block “bad citizens” from traveling on trains and planes.

 

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The social credit program has been around since 2014, and has been steadily expanding ever since, working its way into every corner of Chinese citizens lives, and when it was originally rolled out in 2014 the State Council, China’s governing cabinet, publicly called for the establishment of a nationwide tracking system to rate the reputations of individuals, businesses, and even government officials.

 

Fiction becomes reality?

 

“The aim is for every Chinese citizen to be trailed by a file compiling data from public and private sources by 2020, and for those files to be searchable by fingerprints and other biometric characteristics,” said the council, calling it “a credit system that covers the whole society.”

Doing volunteer work, donating blood, and recycling can all boost one’s social credit score, while incurring debt or criticising the government can render you blacklisted, unable to buy property, take out loans, and now, engage in some forms of mass travel.

 

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It’s all eerily similar to Black Mirror’s third-season episode “Nosedive,” which imagined a world controlled by such a system. It even featured a scene in which star Bryce Dallas Howard is ejected from an airport.

However, on a much more serious note, as we’re seeing all too regularly now increasingly powerful technologies can be used to do great good, such as cure cancer faster and give people with locked in syndrome voices, but, in the wrong hands, with the wrong vision or attitude technology can also be used as a weapon of mass control, and I for one much prefer the former. Similarly, if I could be so bold and provide you with one piece of advice it would be don’t take your freedom for granted, be careful who you vote to govern you and do your utmost to be heard, not silenced – even in the face of seemingly overwhelming adversity.

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