In America, tech giants know a lot about us. John Stossel says that's fine with him. He knows what information he's handing over and he does it voluntarily. But he says we should worry about becoming like China, where the government is starting to use online data to create 1984 in the real world.
China's government has announced that they'll assign a mandatory government "social credit score" to everyone in the country by 2020. It will be based largely on what you do online. Say something that gets censored, you lose points. Same if you watch porn, or are late in returning a rented bike, or buy lots of alcohol.
China's government boasts that the social credit system will "allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step."
"It is a big deal," says Li Schoolland, a Chinese-American libertarian activist who works with Chinese supporters of freedom.
The social credit system, she says, will expand to the whole country what China already does to some government critics. Some of them are jailed. Some are never heard from again.
The government will expand the use of lesser punishments under the new program.
Schoolland explained to Stossel what will happen to people with low scores: "First [you lose] your job, or you never get promoted…and your children cannot get into good schools."
The American government doesn't do anything like that, yet, but Stossel wonders about the future. Police in New Orleans, Los Angeles, and other cities already practice "predictive policing." The tech company Palantir analyzes social media and phone location records, tracks people's ties to gang members, and predicts the likelihood that someone will commit a crime.
Still, Stossel says, he's glad to be in America, where he can criticize the government on Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook.
He's never been punished for that.