THE BLOG
11/30/2016 06:28 pm ET Updated Dec 01, 2017

China Is Trying To Track Its Citizens With Social Scores

Real life social scores are no longer a thing reserved for Black Mirror episodes. China has announced plans to create an Orwellian social scoring system. The system, just like that creepy Black Mirror episode, will track financial, personal, and social information. The goal of tracking all this data? To control access to services, from travel and education to loans and insurance cover. Certain professions like lawyers and journalists will allegedly be more closely monitored.

Data collection is nothing new. Every time you're agreeing to a company's Terms of Service you're willingly handing over huge batches of personal data. As South Park taught us nobody reads those Terms of Service, despite how much they ask of you. The United States already has vague laws like the Patriot Act where they can easily collect your information without your consent.

We know that we're already being surveilled, we know that our data is being collected, but leveraging data is something completely new. China's plans will dramatically alter the way their citizens live their lives. It will allow our digital footprints to create real world repercussions. Not a good sign for the trolls.

This was inevitable. We're becoming more attached to our digital selves. However, tracking data around a person's life and cutting them off from opportunities based on a social scoring system is a drastic step that values the image we're trying to portray more than our actual worth as individuals. A social scoring system will push people to live heightened and false lives in an attempt to create more opportunity. It's the world we're already living in taken to the extreme.

It doesn't seem like that much of a reach to assume that social scoring systems will be part of the future. However, ensuring that those scores aren't compromised is a huge undertaking. Leveraging those massive amounts of data would require an incredible amount of manpower, storage space, and encryption.

If such a service is introduced, it should be done so to increase the quality of life for all those using it. But who decides on the morals of a social score? Could it be "worth more" to be straight rather than gay? What about the type of media you consume? What about your religion? Will these scores be used to enforce warped ideals taken to extremes in a way to encourage certain "normal" types of behavior?

Luckily, the realities of such a system seem to be far off. Whether or not there is utility in a social scoring system to control society isn't really a question worth asking. Everything that leverages data has a certain utility. But let's heed the wise words of Dr. Ian Malcolm, "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."