I read an article a few years back explaining how China has developed a new system that gives people a score for how good or bad a citizen they are.

‘Sesame Credit’ was the name of that system in 2015, which even came with a nice onscreen dashboard.

China’s Sesame Credit dashboard

The system measures how obediently citizens follow the state’s trustworthy line, pulling data from social networks and online purchase histories to develop a complete picture.

Sesame Credit is part of a plan shows the government wants the basic structures of the Social Credit System to be in place by 2020.

The Social Credit System is a system for trustworthiness and compliance of each citizen. The system is fed by data coming both from peoples’ own accounts, online transactions, and eating and drinking habits including drugs and alcohol consumption.

Data that users exchange with websites is used and what is derived is a full social profile, including location, friends, health records, insurance, private messages, financial position, gaming duration, smart home statistics, preferred newspapers, shopping history, and dating behaviors

The system was applied optionally from 2015, and is planned to be fully rolled out by 2020.

It is a clear reward and punish system, that aims is to make it difficult to move for citizens with bad records and easy for those deemed trustworthy.

Records can be improved by publishing good news supporting the government, buying local products, undertaking volunteer work, and supporting social work, elderly support, and blood donation.

Your records can be negatively affected by violating traffic laws, posting “fake news”, and smoking in non-smoking areas, among other things.

When it comes to punishment, you may not be allowed to travel abroad, and you can be banned from certain jobs. You can be denied first-class rail tickets, lose the rights to own pets, and your kids might not be allowed to join good schools.

While others can work hard to improve their records and got scholarship in schools, getting high speed internet, getting access to 5 stars hotel and high-speed train tickets.

According to a recent article on the system, the Chinese government has blocked 11.14 million people from flights and 4.25 million from taking high-speed train trips.

For me, this is the ugly face of data, the data that can be used against you, data that can limit your freedom and make your life difficult.

Yes, a government should benefit from data by empowering decision makers. It can be used to serve the community better, such as by developing an appropriate number of school that can meet needs, or by building more hospitals based on demand.

The questions regarding human freedom are clear, and we need to ask if such systems can benefit a community on the long run.

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