sweet dreams are made of this

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Whilst researching the earlier post concerning data privacy and the impact of GDPR legislation I unearthed some deeply worrying evidence of a post-1984 Orwellian world which is far closer to a reality than, I suspect, we would all believe. Just imagine for a second a society where the majority of our activities and behaviours – where we are, what we are doing, whom are our friends and how we speak to them, what we access online, what we buy and how (or if) we pay for it, whether we game incessantly, exercise daily or download illicit material at al – are constantly monitored and evaluated. And it’s all done with our complete consent.

Four years ago the Chinese Government started building such a framework and, thanks to our deluded collusion with the FANGS (Facebook, Apple, Netflix & Google), they have created a ‘Citizen Score’ app where individuals are publicly ranked in terms of ‘trustworthiness’. Participation in this Social Credit System, which will ultimately determine your support of and compliance to society’s norms, is voluntary but in 2020 it becomes mandatory. Delighted tech partners include the Asian social media behemoth Tencent, messaging app WeChat, Alibaba, Didi Chuxing (China’s Uber) and the country’s answer to Match, Baihe. Big Brother uses Big Data.

It is widely accepted that the system is being prototyped by Sesame Credit, an Alibaba affiliate that also runs online payments via Alipay, and it openly admits to using personal info, credit history, ‘fulfilment’ data, online behaviours, purchase preferences and interpersonal relations in allocating an individual points score somewhere between 350 and 950. Higher scores have already become a nationwide status symbol and are rewarded with such ‘special privileges’ as lower interest rates, speedy credit facilitation, access to VIP lounges & clubs, fast-tracking and queue avoidance, together with far easier international movement and travel. How long before high-ranking determines their next job, marriage partner, house purchase or right to vote?

But before we come over all high & mighty don’t we comply in the same manner every time we buy on ebay, apply for a loan through Experian, write a review on TripAdvisor, upload your Fitbit steps, thrust some cash in Michael O’Leary’s grubby Ryanair mitt, organise an extra-marital affair via Ashley Maddison or swipe right on Grndr? Forget the right to opt-out, you’re already in, and over your head. Today China, tomorrow your place or mine. Sweet dreams are certainly not made of this dystopian creep.