A social credit system seems dystopian enough. But a new report indicates that China has blocked millions of people with low scores from traveling.
Originally launched in 2014, China’s so-called social credit system works kind of like a credit score, except for behavior. Citizens with “good” behaviors are rewarded, while “bad” behaviors result in a low score and restricted privileges.
It seems that those restricted privileges can include being banned from traveling. Chinese courts stopped people from buying plane tickets 17.5 million times and train tickets 5.5 million times in 2018, according to The Associated Press.
China’s National Public Credit Information Center (NPCIC) indicates that those individuals were stopped from making plane and train tickets purchases because they had committed social offenses.
In addition, the AP reports that about 128 people were barred from leaving the country due to unpaid taxes.
China’s social credit system is currently being pilot tested by local authorities throughout the country. But the goal is to implement the social credit system nationwide by 2020, giving each citizen and company its own score.
As mentioned earlier, the system rewards good behaviors and penalizes bad ones. Some offenses that can lead to a low score include failure to pay taxes or fines, or taking recreational drugs, the MIT Technology Review indicates.
In addition to being barred from traveling, people with low scores can face business and educational penalties. While low-scored companies can be barred from access to bank loans or lose out on government contracts.
And the social credit system is just one way that China is implementing technology to monitor and control its people.
Chinese authorities frequently debut new surveillance technology like gait recognition, specialized glasses with facial recognition for cops, and productivity-monitoring programs that employers can use to spy on their employees.
As far as effectiveness, the social credit system has led 3.5 million people to “voluntarily fulfill their legal obligations,” according to the NPCIC. Those legal obligations include things like paying overdue taxes and fines.
If this all doesn’t sound dystopian enough, just take a look at a oft-repeated slogan for the system that frequently shows up in Chinese state media: “Once you lost trust, you will face restrictions everywhere.”