Have you heard about China’s dystopian new “social credit” program? If you haven’t, there’s a terrifying infographic from Bored Panda that I’ll be referencing throughout this article.
The good news is that this is happening in China, where we all know a Communist government has long been crushing freedom for the residents of the nation. You may think this doesn’t affect you because you’re in America, gosh-dang-it, but we’ve seen over and over again how a “great idea” in another country, no matter how dystopian, can spread like a viral contagion.
The bad news is that it is incredibly close to happening here. Heck, it is happening here.
Don’t believe it’s already happening? Let’s take a look.
We all know that our data is being mined and sold to the highest bidder all over the internet. A while back, I was looking for a new rental for the time that our lease runs out. I got some emails from landlords from Craigslist, made an agreement with one of them, and then the very next day, a utility company that I had never contacted sent me a creepy email reminding me of the length of time ahead I needed to schedule relocating my service.
Everything you do online is scanned and sent to people who will profit.
So what if someone on Facebook, Twitter, G-Mail, Yahoo Mail, Outlook, and everyplace else on the internet was collecting every single thing you typed, everything you read, and everything you searched up?
What if all that stuff got combined to create a picture of you, your beliefs, your moral convictions, and the way you think?
Don’t delude yourself into thinking that this will only be limited to China. This is something that will spread based on its “effectiveness.” Effectiveness at what?” you ask. Effectiveness at predicting your every move, from likeliness to pay a bill or honor a contract, to who you will most likely vote for in the next election.
There’s a reason that Mark Zuckerberg had to go to Congress and sit on a stack of books and testify. It’s because the information he has harvested and sold is so incredibly, horribly detailed. When you read the following infographic, you’ll see where I’m going with this.
Right now, in China, the program is optional. But as more and more service providers join in, it will become more difficult to avoid. We see the same thing happening here in the United States. I literally went for almost a decade with no phone whatsoever. No cell, no landline. When people would ask for a number and I said I didn’t have one, they all thought I was lying. Finally, my phone number or lack thereof became such a detriment that I was forced to get one to be able to participate in things that were important to me.
The same thing is true of bank accounts. Over the past 20 years or so, with the advent of direct deposit and direct withdrawal, you simply cannot function in this country without a bank account. Then, of course, the banks are able to help themselves to a hefty fee from everyone and all the money in and out can be tracked. Good times.
Apple, by the way, is already giving people “trust scores” based on their phone calls and emails. Just in case you think I’m being far-fetched.
Here’s how this will be “sold” to any country adopting the practice.
If you don’t think it could happen here, you need only to look at Alex Jones. I don’t like him much, but he’s lost everything because some companies got together to ban him. He’s lost all his social media accounts. He’s lost his email list. He’s lost his ability to accept PayPal. I assure you it’s only a matter of time until he can no longer accept credit cards. If he can’t finance his business and can’t reach people on social media, he is completely silenced. If my site costs a couple thousand a month to operate, his would cost exponentially more with his populous staff of writers and the server capacity he’d need for all the traffic he gets.
You don’t have to like or support Alex Jones to see the broad, sweeping arm that took him down. None of us with a public profile is immune.
I wrote more about the social media purge here. Just because it doesn’t directly affect you or you’re not on social media doesn’t mean that it won’t have an effect.
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