By Jon Dougherty
(NationalSentinel) A news agency that focuses primarily on technology claimed in a report Monday that Silicon Valley’s big tech giants are building a “social credit” system similar to one used by the Chinese government to track and ultimately control its citizens.
Fast Company reports that in China, scoring a citizen’s behavior is official policy and is used by the Communist government to “nudge” them to engage in ‘better behavior’ — behavior that is, of course, defined by the authoritarian regime to be anything that is not upsetting or critical of government policies.
The goal in China is to â€œallow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step,â€ according to the government.
Fast CompanyÂ describes the Chinese system:
In place since 2014, the social credit system is a work in progress that could evolve by next year into a single, nationwide point system for all Chinese citizens, akin to a financial credit score. It aims to punish for transgressions that can include membership in or support for the Falun Gong or Tibetan Buddhism, failure to pay debts, excessive video gaming, criticizing the government, late payments, failing to sweep the sidewalk in front of your store or house, smoking or playing loud music on trains, jaywalking, and other actions deemed illegal or unacceptable by the Chinese government.
It can also award points for charitable donations or even taking oneâ€™s own parents to the doctor.
Punishments can be harsh, including bans on leaving the country, using public transportation, checking into hotels, hiring for high-visibility jobs, or acceptance of children to private schools. It can also result in slower internet connections and social stigmatization in the form of registration on a public blacklist.
Now, the Silicon Valley giants are building a similar system for U.S. citizens and doing so “outside the law,” Fast CompanyÂ reports.
— Earlier this year, the Â New York State Department of Financial Services announced that insurance companies could begin basing premiums on what they see in social media accounts. “That Instagram pic showing you teasing a grizzly bear at Yellowstone with a martini in one hand, a bucket of cheese fries in the other, and a cigarette in your mouth, could cost you,” the news site noted.
Posts showing you working out or doing yoga, on the other hand, might even save you money.
— PatronScan is a technology that helps bar and restaurant owners manage their customers using kiosks, desktops, and handheld systems. PatronScan is a subsidiary of the Canadian software company Servall Biometrics, and its products are now on sale in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
The system helps owners spot phony IDs as well as problem customers. When customers come to a PatronScan-using establishment their identification is scanned and kept in a database to protect them from â€œfighting, sexual assault, drugs, theft, and other bad behavior,â€ according to its website. A “public” list is shared with all PatronScan customers nationwide.
— Traveler and transportation apps like Airbnb and Uber are amassing huge databases that will be shared with all employees and drivers; a bad experience using one of these apps could get you banned and thus limit your travel options in the future.
Airbnb can ban you for life and without ever telling you why. What’s more, the company reserves the right to never allow you to refute its decision. â€œThis decision is irreversible and will affect any duplicated or future accounts. Please understand that we are not obligated to provide an explanation for the action taken against your account,” the company says.
— You can now be banned on communications apps like WhatsApp if too many users ban you (for whatever reason — like they hate your politics or your hair or the fact that you work out or….).
Okay, so almost no one likes rude, abusive behavior. So what’s wrong with some apps and technology designed to identify those people and take action against them?Â Fast Company notes:
The most disturbing attribute of a social credit system is not that itâ€™s invasive, but that itâ€™s extralegal. Crimes are punished outside the legal system, which means no presumption of innocence, no legal representation, no judge, no jury, and often no appeal. In other words, itâ€™s an alternative legal system where the accused have fewer rights.
Social credit systems are an end-run around the pesky complications of the legal system. Unlike Chinaâ€™s government policy, the social credit system emerging in the U.S. is enforced by private companies. If the public objects to how these laws are enforced, it canâ€™t elect new rule-makers.
In the future, it’s possible that most misdemeanors and perhaps even some felonies will be punished not by the justice system but by Silicon Valley.
Breitbart News’Â senior tech reporter Allum Bokhari commented on this development in June, noting that users are already being punished by being banned from important social platforms like Facebook for their political views:
We have a corporate version of this already evolving. So if you donâ€™t do the things that Facebook approves of, theyâ€™re going to cut you off from their platform, which is now essential for maintaining a social network, building a business, running for office.
We rely on Facebook and other social media platforms for so many things. Uber and Lyft will also ban you now â€” theyâ€™ve started to ban people for political viewpoints, so you think China is the only one thatâ€™s going to cut you off from transportation for having the wrong opinions â€” well, Western corporations are now doing that, too. Airbnb, Amazon, theyâ€™re all doing it.
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