China is preparing to implement a social credit system to rank its residents by good behavior, according to a high-level policy document released Sept. 25. The system would award points and bestow punishments depending on a wealth of personal information including online, financial, and legal data, the Washington Post reported Saturday.
The system emphasizes “trust breaking.” “If trust is broken in one place, restrictions are imposed everywhere,” the document states. That means that by racking up too many infractions, anything from minor traffic violations to late bill payment, a Chinese citizen wouldn’t be allowed luxuries like flying first class or staying in expensive hotels. The document emphasized information sharing and joint punishment in order to implement the system.
China hopes to have social credit rankings in place by 2020, but private companies are taking the system for a test drive throughout the nation already. A company called Sesame Credit ranks people by their scores and encourages people to post the results to their dating websites to make themselves more attractive, the Washington Post reported. Other government approved projects have enabled users with high scores to rent cars and bikes without leaving deposits and avoid hospital waits by paying after they’ve already left.
The nationwide credit system would break all remaining barriers between private institutions and government departments, effectively creating one giant government database. It’s unclear how China will overcome the technological hurdles of a program intended to seamlessly combine the personal and financial information of 1.3 billion citizens.
The document laid out punishments for having a low credit score or for “trust breaking,” including restrictions on getting government funding or holding high-level jobs. China would also be able to restrict people from traveling to foreign countries. Those who are found engaging in any “trust breaking” activities would be at the mercy of the government and the court of public opinion.