China Considers Creating a Database to Track Citizens

By Tamanna Desai
Technology & Innovation Editor

Nineteen Eighty- Four published by George Orwell in 1949 has a storyline of a dystopian society where citizens are always under surveillance and controlled by a party leader named “Big Brother”. Imagining a society such as that seems impossible.

However, with the constant innovations in technology, countries such as China may be leading that direction. China is looking into implementing a social credit system.

The social credit will mainly take into account the financial history of citizens but social and political history might also be considered. It will then determine travel, insurance, loans, etc.

It will track data from its 1.4 billion population and create scores for each individual. According to BBC, “By 2020, everyone in China will be enrolled in a vast national database that compiles fiscal and government information… And distils it into a single number ranking each citizen”.

The Chinese government has not yet implemented this system but they are closely watching how big companies in China are issuing their own credit scores.

Alibaba which is a huge online shopping company that directly competes with Amazon and eBay has implemented their own credit system. This system tracks what their customers buy and ranks them based on that. Businessinsider.com gave an example that if  someone was buying baby items then they would seem as a more responsible person than someone buying games.

The government is closely following and monitoring the algorithms of these private companies.

Businessinsider.com said technology bloggers such as Wenquan Xin say, “the system is needed because many of China’s 1.3 billion citizens don’t own a credit card, and the country lacks an equivalent system to the US’ FICO credit score.

That means bankers and loan providers don’t have much to go on”.  The private companies that have implemented the credit ratings allow their customers to buy or rent places or items without having to put down a cash deposit.

These customers are only granted this feature if they are one of the higher ranking customers of the company.

With the innovation of smartphones and other technology, it will be interesting to see how the credit score rating system plays out and how citizens respond to the implementation of a database recording all of their financial, social and political history.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, December 13th print edition.

Contact Tamanna at
tamanna.desai@student.shu.edu

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