Social Credit System

New Chinese App Lets Users ID Debtors Lurking Nearby

How would you like it if nearby strangers could instantly access your credit score on their phones?

|

DebtMapAppWeChat
??

If you're the sort of upstanding citizen who always wants to know if some deadbeat debtors happen to be lurking nearby, then there's good news—at least if you live in China's Hebei province. Last week the Higher People's Court of Hebei introduced a mini-program on WeChat messaging, social media, and mobile payment app targeting "debt dodgers." The app, dubbed a "deadbeat debtors map," enables users to identify and locate any debtors who come within 500 meters. Specifically, it identifies people who have been failing to pay such legal obligations as court-imposed fines, divorce settlements, rent, and loans.

Why publicly expose debtors to public view? The People's Court Newspaper explains the thinking: "With the development of economy and the convenience of transportation, people's travel and mobility costs are lower, and there are more opportunities for people to evade responsibility for their debts. Once a discredited debtor leaves his original working life circle to live in other places, he basically does not feel the moral pressure from the society of acquaintances to honor his debts."

Deploying the debtor map app, the People's Court adds, "is equivalent to constructing a 'quasi-acquaintance society' by technical means, and solving the problem of 'moral pressure' in a society of strangers. Thus debtors will be forced to fulfill their obligations as soon as possible, no longer getting away with being deadbeats."

The new app is part of the rollout of China's Social Credit System, which aims to track and report the "trustworthiness" of every citizen by 2020. So far, the Social Credit System does not assign an easily accessed three-digit trustworthiness score to each citizen, as some media outlets have reported. But as the Hebei debtor map app indicates, various localities are experimenting with combinations of private and public social scoring.

The Nation reports that the city of Rongcheng has implemented probably the most thoroughgoing version of a Social Credit System so far. Citizens of Rongcheng earn or are docked points from their initial assignment of 1,000 points for engaging in various activities that result in social credit grades ranging from A+ to D. Not stopping for pedestrians in a crosswalk results in a loss of five social credit points, for example; graffiti hostile to the government forfeits 50 points. Helping a neighbor prune a tree or get his car out of a ditch earns the do-gooder a point. Citizen activities are monitored and enforced by a extensive system of surveillance cameras. According to The Nation, some neighborhoods "already have a social-credit square where bright billboards show details of the commands and pictures of citizens who have won or lost points during the past month." Talk about constructing a "quasi-acquaintance society" by technical means!

In addition to the public shaming, blacklisted citizens with low social credit scores are banned from booking rooms in hotels, registering their children for good evening classes, or buying tickets for high-speed trains or air travel for a year. Low-scoring companies are banned from responding to calls for tender offers.

None of us have never done something of which we are now ashamed. Would you like to live in a world where random strangers nearby can click on an app that instantly reports your dumbest and most embarrassing past blunders? I wouldn't.

But many Chinese say they appreciate the ways the nascent Social Credit System forestalls fraud and encourages people to behave better in public. A 32-year-old Rongcheng entrepreneur named Chen tells Foreign Policy that "people's behavior has gotten better and better. For example, when we drive, now we always stop in front of crosswalks. If you don't stop, you will lose your points." He adds: "At first, we just worried about losing points, but now we got used to it."

Recent polling data suggests that the Social Credit System has been popular with most Chinese citizens so far. So let's end on a disquieting question: How many Americans would be similarly willing to surrender the liberty and pleasures of public anonymity in exchange for a bit more public order?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

59 responses to “New Chinese App Lets Users ID Debtors Lurking Nearby

  1. I have a pretty damn fine credit score (584) so I’d be proud to air it out.

    1. 584 webcam credits?

    2. That’s right down there with your customers. Your floorplan must be a bitch.

    3. Of course I’d let my credit score be seen.

      “Hey baby, you ever see 900? Come ‘ere…”

  2. What kind of debts are reported in this system? I stuck my buddy with a bar tab?

    1. What kind of debts are reported in this system?

      Hint: Not the ones owed to, by, or between corrupt government officials.

    2. Specifically, it identifies people who have been failing to pay such legal obligations as court-imposed fines, divorce settlements, rent, and loans.

    3. A friend of mine stuck me with his tab, on my birthday.

  3. I could actually get behind something like this if instead of displaying your private debt, it displayed your net financial dealings with the state:

    Joe: Paid $30k/year in taxes, no benefits
    Jane: Paid $5k/year in taxes, claimed $4k/year in benefits
    Jim: Paid $1k/year in taxes, claimed $27k/year in benefits

    Politics would change right quickly.

    1. What exactly do you think would change?

    2. Yes Best is right, the only outcome of that will be people complaining Joe didn’t pay enough taxes, and they already do that

    3. Well yeah. For one thing, Trump wouldn’t run for a second term.

  4. So let’s end on a disquieting question: How many Americans would be similarly willing to surrender the liberty and pleasures of public anonymity in exchange for a bit more public order?

    IDK and I’m not sure the opinions of regular nobodies matters much.

    But I’m willing to bet that 100% of techies who claim to be ‘libertarian’ would be completely willing to implement this sort of system – and call it ‘libertarian’.

    1. “”How many Americans would be similarly willing to surrender the liberty and pleasures of public anonymity in exchange for a bit more public order?”‘

      Maybe few now, but wait 20 years, warm them up to it and pretty much all will be ok.

      In the 80s, the idea of the government tracking your every move was hated. Now people run out to buy the latest model of tracker available (cell phone).

  5. A coat of gold, a coat of red. A lion still has claws…

    1. Does the app tell you if you are next to a Lannister?

  6. The new app is part of the rollout of China’s Social Credit System, which aims to track and report the “trustworthiness” of every citizen by 2020. So far, the Social Credit System does not assign an easily accessed three-digit trustworthiness score to each citizen, as some media outlets have reported. But as the Hebei debtor map app indicates, various localities are experimenting with combinations of private and public social scoring.

    Is this social credit score similar to America’s Twitter Credit Score?

  7. Recent polling data suggests that the Social Credit System has been popular with most Chinese citizens so far. So let’s end on a disquieting question: How many Americans would be similarly willing to surrender the liberty and pleasures of public anonymity in exchange for a bit more public order?

    I bet #MeToo has made men do better.

  8. The People’s Court Newspaper

    Hon. Judy “Judge Judy” Sheindlin, J.D. – Senior Editor

    1. Silly me for not knowing Judge Milian is the judge on The People’s Court!

        1. Only the rain man knows.

  9. In addition to the public shaming, blacklisted citizens with low social credit scores are banned from … registering their children for good evening classes

    Sino, I mean, sins of the father, eh?

    1. I think he just meant classes that teach how to say ‘Good evening’ the right way – by doffing a top hat and bowing (perhaps with a click of the heels when in Germany).

      1. Or maybe they are classes on how to have a good evening: how to pick the right wine, not waste an hour trying to find something to watch on Netflix, etc.

        1. Protip: I just go to hulu and replay the latest season of Bob’s Burgers over and over. I almost have all the dialog memorized. Also Futurama, natch.

  10. How many Americans would be similarly willing to surrender the liberty and pleasures of public anonymity in exchange for a bit more public order?/i>

    *** scratches head ***

    Is beating the shit out of close-by debtors considered “a bit more public order”?

    1. *** gets coffee ***

  11. This would be useful to know in some circumstances.

  12. Deploying the debtor map app, the People’s Court adds, “is equivalent to constructing a ‘quasi-acquaintance society’ by technical means, and solving the problem of ‘moral pressure’ in a society of strangers. Thus debtors will be forced to fulfill their obligations as soon as possible, no longer getting away with being deadbeats.”

    This just illustrates how alien Chinese culture is.

    Outside of maybe running out on divorce settlements or child support, if you aren’t thinking of loaning money for a living, in America you’re not going to care if some rando that moved into your neighborhood has outstanding debts. That’s his problem and his business.

    1. “This just illustrates how alien Chinese culture is.”

      The difference is that Americans say they value independence, but are happy to attach themselves to others as employees. Chinese culture values self or family employment, where the creditworthiness of those you come into contact with is of more importance.

      Debt is also much more stigmatized in China than in the west. Coming up soon is Chinese New Year, the time traditionally when debts are repaid. There’s a good chance in the days following there will be stories of Chinese mysteriously vanishing or their deadbeat bodies being found somewhere.

      1. Debt is less stigmatized in the west? Tell that to Charles Dickens, who spent part of his childhood in a workhouse orphanage because his folks were in debtors prison,

        It may be less stigmatized now, but it’s a relatively recent development…perhaps fueled by the example of government, for whom debt might as well be crack.

        1. “.perhaps fueled by the example of government”

          Americans apply for, receive and use credit cards without any particular encouragement from their government. Their debt is their responsibility.

    2. Eh…

      To a degree, sure. Folks are less and less likely to know who their neighbors are, and to not particularly care.

      That said, we asked for, if not demanded, things like the “sex offender registry”, police procedural sections of the newspaper outing everyone’s dirty laundry, tabloids and gossip rags, credit scores… we created a society where “free range kids” are a weird thing, where police will talk to parents for not supervising their children playing in the front yard.

      We aren’t as unconcerned as you think. We may not want to personally interact with our neighbors, and be fine leaving them as strangers, but we still want to gossip and pry.

  13. In addition to the public shaming, blacklisted citizens with low social credit scores are banned from booking rooms in hotels, registering their children for good evening classes, or buying tickets for high-speed trains or air travel for a year. Low-scoring companies are banned from responding to calls for tender offers.

    Some asshole writing (not a commenter) for Techdirt (which is normally very good) said this system was just like your Credit Score.

    1. “this system was just like your Credit Score.”

      Doesn’t your credit score use proxies like your zip code?

  14. None of us have never done something of which we are now ashamed. Would you like to live in a world where random strangers nearby can click on an app that instantly reports your dumbest and most embarrassing past blunders? I wouldn’t.

    This isn’t even about embarrassing things. 99% of the things you get scored negatively on aren’t even embarrassments – they’re just ignoring government diktats or saying you don’t like the government.

  15. China’s Social Credit System is plot of the Black Mirror episode Nosedive.

    China is our dystopian future. Z-Eyes will soon be mandatory.

  16. I’m developing an app that will show who in your vicinity has cheated on her husband/boyfriend.

    I will soon be richer than Bezos.

    1. OnlyCuckers.com

  17. If I am young and buff, and ESPECIALLY if I am young and buff and FEMALE, and I post a bunch of nude pics of myself on the internets, how many social points do I get?

    If I am old and fat and ugly, of either sex, and I post nude pics of myself on the internets, how many social points do I get? Negative points, right?

    WTF is gonna happen around THIS particular issue??!

    1. BTW, WHERE are my social points for ***NOT*** leaving turds in my boss’s chair?!?!?!?

      (Along similar lines, old, fat, and ugly folks should be given extra social points, not only for NOT posting nude photos of themselves on the intertubes, but ALSO, for NOT EVEN showing up on the beach, especially in speedos!!!!)

    2. This is run by the Chinese government, and the Chinese government is (officially) anti-porn.

      So I think nudies for anyone is going to be negative points.

  18. “So let’s end on a disquieting question: How many Americans would be similarly willing to surrender the liberty and pleasures of public anonymity in exchange for a bit more public order?”

    “Any Society that will giving up a little liberty to gain a little security, will deserve neither and lose both”__B.Franklin

    China is already making George Orwell proud…so what’s a little more spying on each other between friends eh?

    1. “Any Society that will giving up a little liberty to gain a little security, will deserve neither and lose both”

      But in this case it’s giving up privacy gain public order. Take a lesson from the Chinese: Build that wall and you don’t have to lose either.

  19. How many Americans would be similarly willing to surrender the liberty and pleasures of public anonymity in exchange for a bit more public order?

    I’ll take “Damn near all of them” for $500.00, Alex.

  20. “Recent polling data suggests that the Social Credit System has been popular with most Chinese citizens so far. ”

    How many points do you get or lose for your answer?

    1. Good question.

      The examples in the article make it clear how it works. You gain one point for helping someone get his car out off a ditch (which takes time and effort) and five points for stopping for a pedestrian in a crosswalk. (A few seconds and zero effort.) And you lose 50 (50!) points for anti-government graffiti. Not for a tag or a curse word? but for anti-government messages. Hmmm

      1. You misread. You lose five points for not stopping, stopping gets you nothing. So behavior that might be due to inattention is penalized 5 times the amount of proactively doing something good and anti-government behavior at 50 times the amount. The goal isn’t to encourage you to be a better citizen but to create far reaching ramifications for non compliance. I bet being a member of the ruling elite gives you +1000 with no ability to lose.

        1. You’re exactly right. That is their goal, no doubt.

  21. I essentially started three weeks past and that i makes $385 benefit $135 to $a hundred and fifty consistently simply by working at the internet from domestic. I made ina long term! “a great deal obliged to you for giving American explicit this remarkable opportunity to earn more money from domestic. This in addition coins has adjusted my lifestyles in such quite a few manners by which, supply you!”. go to this website online domestic media tech tab for extra element thank you……
    http://www.geosalary.com

  22. Start working at home with Google. It’s the most-financially rewarding I’ve ever done. On tuesday I got a gorgeous BMW after having earned $8699 this last month. I actually started five months/ago and practically straight away was bringin in at least $96, per-hour. visit this site right here….. http://www.mesalary.com

  23. It used to be one Aww shit offset one atta boy, now it is one antigovernment statement offsets 50 good deeds. The system is not about altruism or good deeds but just be obedient.

  24. Start working at home with Google. It’s the most-financially rewarding I’ve ever done. On tuesday I got a gorgeous BMW after having earned $8699 this last month. I actually started five months/ago and practically straight away was bringin in at least $96, per-hour. visit this site right here….. http://www.mesalary.com

  25. Chicoms still pieces of shit, but now hi tech shit.

    https://tinyurl.com/yawwwkpa

    “Uighurs, predominately Muslim ethnic groups whose members have periodically lashed out with riots, stabbings and other attacks in protest of a government controlled by the Han Chinese majority. China has responded by installing a pervasive surveillance system in cities across Xinjiang and locking up as many as 1 million Uighurs?almost 10 percent of their regional population?in mass detention camps.”

    ****

    “Uighurs have reason to be paranoid. The police presence designed to track them is anything but subtle. Always, there is the fear of being taken away.

    Police question them on the street, demanding to know where they’re going and why. Metal detectors, facial scanners and document checks are routine. Surveillance cameras are everywhere, even in some public restrooms. In one Uighur mosque, I counted 40 of them.”

    1. In all fairness, they are Muslims after all! 🙂

      But seriously, this is the reason that nation states should be based upon ethno-cultural-religious grounds. Other than empires forcing people to be part of a state, people naturally organize states around these things. Whenever that isn’t the case you end up with shit like this. It is also the same thing that is tearing the USA apart. I think the world needs a fuck ton of secessionist movements, and that would go a LONG way towards fixing the worlds problems.

  26. Hey that’s just great.

    I can change my targets to suit my suit my needs:
    like:
    1. People who insulted Xi Juinping
    2. People who insulted the Donald
    3. People who revealed corruption by party officials (an unwritten crime in China)
    4. Uighurs
    5. College Graduates
    6. You name it we do it

    Then I can safely carry my pogrom kit, my baseball-bat-to-the-head kit etc. and know they’ll probably get a nice work out.

    Way hey. The future is just great. We’ll have all those pesky smart humans extinct within a generation or two.

  27. We already have a credit score, publicly-accessible police records and blotters, we don’t have anything like Europe’s “right to be forgotten” laws, and of course social media participation gives a lot of stuff away for free…

    We aren’t there, but it’s mostly in that our systems aren’t unified, not that we aren’t already surveilling ourselves and making that information public.

    And it’s not like we don’t have countless stories about how the credit score companies srcrewing up has ruined lives, and despite this they’re still unaccountable.

    So it’s not like keeping government out of (some of) it has made things any more accountable.

    To be clear, none of this should be read as an endorsement. I just can’t be bothered to get that worked up over it. That pooch done got screwed a long time ago.

  28. That is certainly a great app for an individual that is looking for a loan facility because this will save his time and he can contact a loan facilitator near by. I have also developed many apps like this back when i was in Dubai and there were some fine Mobile developers in Dubai with whom i had great working experience.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.