Coming Soon to China: 1984

The People’s Republic of China, perhaps inspired by Google and Facebook and Amazon, is about to initiate a program rating all its 1.4 billion citizens. A person’s “social rating” score will determine how trustworthy one is. Transgressions such as a traffic infraction, a loan default, criticizing the government or not properly caring for one’s parents will deduct points from one’s score. The system will track hobbies, purchases and even who a person’s friends are. A low score will result in myriads of restrictions, from person’s job prospects, what schools children may attend, even access to restaurants or high-speed Internet.

Participation in the program is voluntary now; by 2020, every citizen will be required to enroll. But Chinese citizens are already finding themselves barred from air and rail travel because of their “untrustworthiness.”

The social scoring is an expansion of a credit scoring system called Sesame Credit, built and operated by Ant Financial, a subsidiary of the Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba, the world’s largest on-line merchant. (Yes, larger than you-know-who.) Chinese millennials flaunt their Sesame scores on social media.

Could this be coming to the U.S.? The National Security Agency (N.S.A.) already monitors our e-mail correspondence, phone calls and who-knows what else. The T.S.A. – with no advance notice or appeal process – already bars thousands from commercial flights.

If the current occupant of the White House succeeds with his drive to autocracy, will our government find uses for our personal information that is already being gathered?

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