Big Data in safe hands? China planning carrot-and-stick policy to create 'sincerity' culture among citizens

Opinion Piece

It is no secret that in times of online marketing and advertising, our digital footprints are under constant surveillance. From everything we click, shop or search online, the data is collected by third party cookies, saved, correlated and analysed for user behaviour.

Even behemoths like Google, Facebook and Instagram thrive from this data-driven model. In such changing times, it is the duty of governments — elected directly or indirectly — to secure civil liberties of its citizens and to also ensure the safety of its netizens.

But when the same guardian behaves like the Big Brother, starts monitoring every move of its citizens through surveillance, and deploys sophisticated algorithms to rank its 1.3bn citizens on a scale of ‘trustworthiness’, you then call it China’s social credit policy 2020.

The authoritarian regime in China is an open secret. But this ‘trustworthy-ness’ policy which aims to reward citizens with good score and punish those with bad score, is shockingly scary.

Just when you thought the Communist regime is content with video surveillance of its citizens, this new policy, once it rolls out in 2020, will monitor every interaction of citizens online and how they behave on social media, and eventually use this data to form part of a scoring system.

This ‘Citizen Score’ will be used to tell everyone how trustworthy a citizen is. This rating would also be made public and could, in future, determine the eligibility of a citizen to get a loan, apply for a job, or even get a date.

What has prompted the government to adopt this carrot-and-stick policy is understood to be the sweeping cases of corruption, which is reportedly affecting the profit of businesses and economic growth. By utilizing modern tools of big data, China’s authoritarian leaders is hoping to solve this trust deficit.

Unfortunately, the case has ‘surveillance’ written all over it and I can only hope that the Communist Party of China is successful in bringing about a sincere culture across the society by unleashing the Big Brother in their private spaces. How this interplay between power and freedom plays out, is yet to be seen.

 

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