China Assigns Every Citizen A ‘Social Credit Score’ To Identify Who Is And Isn’t Trustworthy

BEIJING (CBSNewYork) — China is rolling out a high-tech plan to give all of its 1.4 billion citizens a personal score, based on how they behave.

But there are consequences if a score gets too low, and for some that’s cause for concern, CBS2’s Ben Tracy reported Tuesday.

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When Liu Hu recently tried to book a flight, he was told he was banned from flying because he was on the list of untrustworthy people. Liu is a journalist who was ordered by a court to apologize for a series of tweets he wrote and was then told his apology was insincere.

“I can’t buy property. My child can’t go to a private school,” he said. “You feel you’re being controlled by the list all the time.”

And the list is now getting longer as every Chinese citizen is being assigned a social credit score — a fluctuating rating based on a range of behaviors. It’s believed that community service and buying Chinese-made products can raise your score. Fraud, tax evasion and smoking in non-smoking areas can drop it.

A worker adjusts security cameras on the edge of Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Sept. 30, 2014. (Photo: Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)

China’s growing network of surveillance cameras makes all of this possible.

“It can recognize more than 4,000 vehicles,” Xu Li said.

Li is the CEO of Sensetime, one of China’s most successful artificial intelligence companies. It has created smart cameras for the government that can help catch criminals, but also track average citizens.

“We can tell whether it is an adult, a child, male or female,” Li said.

Ken Dewoskin has studied China’s economic and political culture for more than three decades. He says how the new scoring system truly works is kept secret and could be easily abused by the government.

Tracy: “How far into people’s daily mundane activities does this go?”

Dewoskin: “Well, I think that the government and the people running the plan would like it to go as deeply as possible to determine how to allocate benefits and also how to impact and shape their behavior.”

The fear, of course, it that the government may use this social credit scoring system to punish people that it deems not sufficiently loyal to the communist party, Tracy reported. And trying to clear your name or fight your score is nearly impossible, because there’s no due process.

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