American Big Tech barons building ‘social credit’ system akin to China’s authoritarian tool


In a stunning move that would send George Orwell into fits of rage, Silicon Valley’s technocratic regime is prepping a sinister system to keep dibs on Americans in all aspects of their daily lives.

This sort of insidious “social credit” system already exists in China, where it is utilized to implement a very literal computerized caste system.

In place since 2014, the social credit system is a work in progress that could evolve by next year into a single, nationwide point system for all Chinese citizens, akin to a financial credit score. It aims to punish for transgressions that can include membership in or support for the Falun Gong or Tibetan Buddhism, failure to pay debts, excessive video gaming, criticizing the government, late payments, failing to sweep the sidewalk in front of your store or house, smoking or playing loud music on trains, jaywalking, and other actions deemed illegal or unacceptable by the Chinese government.

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It can also award points for charitable donations or even taking one’s own parents to the doctor.

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If you allow your “good boy” points to diminish, things can get hairy for you.

Punishments can be harsh, including bans on leaving the country, using public transportation, checking into hotels, hiring for high-visibility jobs, or acceptance of children to private schools. It can also result in slower internet connections and social stigmatization in the form of registration on a public blacklist.

And while this is all quite dystopian, Americans enjoy a level of guaranteed freedom that would never allow for such authoritarianism to flourish, right?

Maybe not.

The New York State Department of Financial Services announced earlier this year that life insurance companies can base premiums on what they find in your social media posts. That Instagram pic showing you teasing a grizzly bear at Yellowstone with a martini in one hand, a bucket of cheese fries in the other, and a cigarette in your mouth, could cost you. On the other hand, a Facebook post showing you doing yoga might save you money. (Insurance companies have to demonstrate that social media evidence points to risk, and not be based on discrimination of any kind—they can’t use social posts to alter premiums based on race or disability, for example.)

The use of social media is an extension of the lifestyle questions typically asked when applying for life insurance, such as questions about whether you engage in rock climbing or other adventure sports. Saying “no,” but then posting pictures of yourself free-soloing El Capitan, could count as a “yes.”

It gets worse:

A company called PatronScan sells three products—kiosk, desktop, and handheld systems—designed to help bar and restaurant owners manage customers. PatronScan is a subsidiary of the Canadian software company Servall Biometrics, and its products are now on sale in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

PatronScan helps spot fake IDs—and troublemakers. When customers arrive at a PatronScan-using bar, their ID is scanned. The company maintains a list of objectionable customers designed to protect venues from people previously removed for “fighting, sexual assault, drugs, theft, and other bad behavior,” according to its website. A “public” list is shared among all PatronScan customers. So someone who’s banned by one bar in the U.S. is potentially banned by all the bars in the U.S., the U.K., and Canada that use the PatronScan system for up to a year.

The problem here is that the thresholds of poor behavior are chosen by bar managers and owners – folks who aren’t clinical psychologists by any stretch of the imagination, and whose establishments are hotspots for emotional, brash thinking as opposed to the sort of even-keeled observation necessary to dole out social credit scores.

This could also mean that, despite avoiding legal trouble throughout your life, you may still find yourself with many of the same barriers to success as convicted felons, all because the 24 year old bar manager at the local Applebees doesn’t like you.

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