The Social Credit System (社会信用体系 shèhuì xìnyòng tǐxì) is a national reputation system being developed by the Chinese government. By 2020, it is intended to standardise the assessment of citizen’s and business’s economic and social reputation, or ‘credit’. By 2018, some restrictions had been placed on citizens, which state-media described as the first step toward creating a national social credit system. The system is a form of mass surveillance which uses big data analysis technology.
On June 14, 2014, the China’s State Council issued an outline for the national social credit system. The outline focuses on four areas: “honesty in government affairs” (政务诚信), “commercial integrity” (商务诚信), “societal integrity” (社会诚信), and “judicial credibility” (司法公信). The Chinese government’s plans include plans for credit assessment for businesses operating in China. The Social Credit System is an example of China’s “top-level design” (顶层设计) approach.
Automated algorithms are used to structure the collected data, based on government rules that define good and bad.
Data stems both from peoples’ own accounts, as well as their network’s activities. Website operators can mine the traces of data that we leave and derive a full social profile, including e.g. peoples’ location, friends, health records, insurance, private messages, financial situation, gaming duration, smart home statistics, preferred newspapers, shopping history, and dating behaviour.
From the program, the Chinese SCS will be fully implemented starting in 2020 and will be made mandatory for every citizen. Once implemented, every citizen will be rewarded, or punished, on the basis of their behavior. Some types of punishments can be: flight ban, exclusion from private schools, slow internet connection, exclusion from high prestige work, exclusion from hotel, registration on a public blacklist. By May 2018, several million flight and high speed train trips had been denied. The people denied were on a blacklist. The exact reasons for people being placed on the list are unknown. Business Insider speculated that the reason could be the debtors list created by the Supreme People’s Court.