As America’s financial system (embedded with racial injustice) continues to plague unnecessary punishment on certain groups of people, the country is closely watching China’s new “social credit movement”.
China’s new measure of trustworthiness set to roll out in 2020 will monitor, assess and discipline citizens’ social, political and economic behavior. The Xinyong (a person’s honesty and trustworthiness) system entails a series of big data and AI-enabled processes that compute an individual's behavior, from online purchasing to obedience to traffic laws, timely bill payments, or your choice of friends. All 1.35 billion Chinese citizens will be subjected to the system; people with high scores will enjoy better social privileges and economic benefits. On the other hand, low scores could get blacklisted from accessing certain services, such as flights or train travels (Kagan, 2018).
Given the fact that we live in a data-sensitive era, the potential for misuse and the likelihood of mishandling personal, private data is drawing public attention; as well as, concerns. Data in the hands of an authoritarian government like China becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, which vividly illustrates how digital technology is aiding authoritarian regimes to pressure them into acting a certain government-approved way to receive a higher social credit score.
Meanwhile in the U.S. citizens are judged (rewarded/penalized) based on creditworthiness; defined as a valuation performed by lenders to determine the possibility of a borrower defaulting on debt obligations. Factors; such as, repayment history, credit score, assets, liabilities and other financial factor are considered to determine the probability of default.
Creditworthiness is depicted as a credit score; a high credit score provides high creditworthiness; however, a low score is penalized and left out of financial opportunities. In addition, creditworthiness considers other factors such as age, income, financial obligations, employment status, total debt owed, types of accounts, length of payment history and the ability to repay debt. It also determines the interest rate, fees and terms and conditions of a credit card or loan; ultimately, one’s credit score can affect employment eligibility, insurance premiums, business funding and professional certifications or licenses (Kagan, 2018).
Which is Better?
On one end of the globe we have a country rewarding or penalizing citizens social and financial actions based on trustworthiness. On the other end, here at home the U.S. uses creditworthiness as its reason to mass surveillance citizens financial actions to reward or penalize them. No matter how you assess and compare the two; neither addresses hidden internal issues contributing to external actions. More importantly, both seem to purposely aim bullets at penalizing low- and moderate-income individuals keeping them out of financial opportunities.
Liu, J. (2018). Is China's social credit system really the dystopian sci-fi scenario that many fear? Science Nordic.
Kagan, J. (2018). Creditworthiness.