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A detailed explanation of China's Social Ranking System

by May 16

I've seen all the recent posts about how China's government-backed social scoring is going into place soon, but for all intents and purposes it already exists through the privately held companies that undertook the effort starting years ago. The big points are already there. A good or bad score will determine if you're even seen for job interviews, if you can use ride sharing and other services, where you can rent an apartment, what hotels you can stay at, even if you can leave the country. "And so the tech company began the process of creating a score that would be “credit for everything in your life,” as You explains it."

The system involved also tracks EVERYTHING that you do. If you want to use it for mobile payments or basically even function in much of society it's a given that you're using it, but you really have no choice. The two most widely used services, Alipay and WeChat, are tied into the country's largest financial institutions, backed by the massive Alibaba and Tencent corporations, and tied to almost every available electronic payment option. They also siphon data from 95% of the apps that citizens use day-to-day.  "Alipay knows that at 1 pm on the afternoon of August 26, I rented an Ofo brand bike outside Shanghai’s former French Concession and rode north, parking it across from Jing’an Temple. It knows that at 1:24 pm I bought a snack in the mall next to the temple. It knows that afterward I got in a Didi car bound for a neighborhood to the northwest. It knows that at 3:11 pm I disembarked and entered a supermarket, and it knows (because Alibaba owns the supermarket, which accepts only Alipay at checkout) that at 3:36 pm I bought bananas, cheese, and crackers. It knows that I then got in a taxi, and that I arrived at my destination at 4:01 pm. It knows the identification number of the taxi that drove me there. It knows that at 4:19 pm I paid $8 for an Amazon delivery. For three sweet hours—one of which I spent in the swimming pool—it does not know my whereabouts. Then it knows that I rented another Ofo bike outside a hotel in central Shanghai, cycled 10 minutes, and at 7:11 pm parked it outside a popular restaurant. Because Ant Financial is a strategic investor in Ofo, Alipay might know the route I took."

A little more on how far reaching this is: "Officials there began assessing residents on a range of criteria, including education level, online behavior, and how well they followed traffic laws... After the points were tallied up, citizens were assigned grades of A, B, C, or D. Grade A citizens would be given priority for school admissions and employment, while D citizens would be denied licenses, permits, and access to some social services."  "Chinese people who have been branded untrustworthy are getting the first glimpse of what a unified system might mean. One day last May, Liu Hu, a 42-year-old journalist, opened a travel app to book a flight. But when he entered his name and national ID number, the app informed him that the transaction wouldn’t go through because he was on the Supreme People’s Court blacklist. This list—literally, the List of Dishonest People—is the same one that is integrated into Zhima Credit. In 2015 Liu had been sued for defamation by the subject of a story he’d written, and a court had ordered him to pay $1,350. He paid the fine, and even photographed the bank transfer slip and messaged the photo to the judge in the case. Perplexed as to why he was still on the list, he contacted the judge and learned that, while transferring his fine, he had entered the wrong account number. He hurried to transfer the money again, following up to make sure the court had received it. This time the judge did not reply. Although Liu hadn’t signed up for Zhima Credit, the blacklist caught up with him in other ways. He became, effectively, a second-class citizen. He was banned from most forms of travel; he could only book the lowest classes of seat on the slowest trains. He could not buy certain consumer goods or stay at luxury hotels, and he was ineligible for large bank loans. Worse still, the blacklist was public. Liu had already spent a year in jail once before on charges of “fabricating and spreading rumors” after reporting on the shady dealings of a vice-mayor of Chong­qing. Still, Liu took to his blog to stir up sympathy and convince the judge to take him off the list. As of October he was still on it. “There is almost no oversight of the court executors” who maintain the blacklist, he told me. “There are many mistakes in implementation that go uncorrected.” If Liu had a Zhima Credit score, his troubles would have been compounded by other worries. The way Zhima Credit is designed, being blacklisted sends you on a rapid downward spiral. First your score drops. Then your friends hear you are on the blacklist and, fearful that their scores might be affected, quietly drop you as a contact. The algorithm notices, and your score plummets further."  TLDR: a journalist who never signed up for the system was blacklisted and unable to travel out of the country over a CIVIL trial issue from fines that were improperly marked as never having been paid. Even mistakes that you had no part in can leave you stranded and mired in the legal system. Remember, this is a private credit and social service, currently it is not integrated with the government's coming roll out.

Your social circle also matters. Your aunt and uncle that are connected with you on Alipay missed several large payments? Your rating may go down as well. This really is getting to some Gattaca-level stuff when it comes to the new means of social stratification, though I suppose it's semi-nice that it's not based on genetic testing. It's serious enough that there are chat rooms where people with high scores seek one another out. 1984 is in full effect, and even with a lot of the consumer protection in place in the EU I wouldn't be surprised if companies do their best to make this a part of daily life there as time goes by. Pretty much a given that similar integration will be pushed in full force in the States and anywhere else that major financial institutions can get away with it.

Just sharing some information here as at least a few of the posts were unclear about the fact that while the government's monitoring system isn't fully in place, if you're currently living in China it might as well be. Keep in mind that the people helping the government implement this are the ones running the two largest privately-managed social scoring services. Source: #bigbrother #china #socialmonitoring


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