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Hvordan ville du likt det hvis alt du gjorde ble overvåket, og handlingene dine bestemte hvilke muligheter i samfunnet du hadde? Dette blir realiteten i Kina fra 2020, og går under navnet sosialt kredittsystem, og er temaet for vår nyeste episode av podcasten "Iterasjoner". 

Hele episoden kan du høre her!

 

Episodens gjester er Helene Jørum (kommunikasjonsrådgiver i Itera) og Martin Maurtvedt, som har skrevet master om kredittsystemet. Temaer som tas opp er hva dette systemet innebærer, hvorfor de fleste kinesere ønsker systemet velkomment, og hvordan dette kan spre seg til flere land inkludert vesten.

I tillegg har Helene intervjuet Xiao Qiang, en kinesisk forsker og underviser ved Berkeley som bor i eksil i USA, om situasjonen. Faste programledere er Solveig Kristine Holtvedt og Stein Arne Nistad.

Hele intervjuet med professor Xiao Qiang kan du høre her: 

 

To kinesiske studenter i USA forteller om sin opplevelse av det kommende systemet

I forbindelse med podcast-episoden intervjuet vi to kinesiske studenter i USA, for å høre hvordan de opplever det nye systemet. Av hensyn til studentrenes personvern og relasjon til Kina, er de begge anonyme i dette intervjuet. 

 

1. In brief, what is your impression of what is happening in China, regarding big data surveillance of citizens?

  1. I only know a little about this situation as I’ve been away from China for a while. I know that China has been very involved on using information systems for public security purposes. For example, many public places are equipped with high resolution cameras. It has been very easy and fast nowadays for police to track and capture criminal activities through the system. I heard the Chinese government is planning on digitalizing the national ID card through WeChat, a popular social media message app in China. Even without the digitalization, the national ID cards is scannable and is crucial for people everyday life. For instance, one needs the ID card to board the high-speed train, go on a flight and go to some tourist attractions. I heard very briefly that they are planning to implement a social score system.
  2. Big data surveillance in China is a tool that gives Chinese authorities to connect the dots in ways that humans cannot, and is becoming increasingly widespread under city Police Cloud systems. This is certainly beneficial for catching criminals, for instance, via its facial recognition systems that can hone in on its target within seven minutes, or via its predictive policing methods to map out potential future crimes. However, its underbelly is that is grants them carte blanche to monitor whomever they consider a threat to social stability without needing to provide legal justification. Under such a purview, ethnic minorities, social activists and/or petitioners, will be followed much more closely, without any legal recourse, simply because of their identity or because what they believe in is considered detrimental to social stability.

    Particularly to the point of ethnic minorities, this runs counter to what is enshrined in China’s Constitution, Article 4:

    “All nationalities in the People’s Republic of China are equal. The State protects the lawful rights and interests of the minority nationalities and upholds and develops a relationship of equality, unity and mutual assistance among all of China’s nationalities. Discrimination against and oppression of any nationality are prohibited; any act which undermines the unity of the nationalities or instigates division is prohibited.”

 

2. What is your reaction to this? What is the good and the bad sides as you see it?

  1. I have mixed feelings about this. On the plus side, it does increase the efficiency of the public security enforcement. China is probably one of the safest places to live. One can worry very little when he/she walks on the street at midnight. One the other side, this can be a potential challenge to people’s privacy and rights. I’m also concerned about the accuracy of the big data system for identify individuals’ activities. If it’s not reliable, it may create a lot of wrong cases.
  2. China had not had a large-scale credit system, akin to FICO here in the US, prior to the SCS. In this sense, bringing more individuals to participate in a national credit system would significantly cut costs that arise from lack of information on potential creditors. 

    Another upside is inducing greater personal financial responsibility, ensuring contracts are carried out, and reducing irresponsible business behavior. Ant Financial’s Sesame Credit is particularly adept at this through its carrot and stick approach. Perks abound for those with higher credit scores, from fast-tracked Schengen visa applications to access to VIP lounges at the PEK airport, but running afoul of this contributes to the individual being ostracized, with reduced access to travel, restaurants, and employment opportunities. 

    It would still be acceptable to me if the SCS’s evaluation measures ended there. The downsides, however, far outweigh its upsides. Many already argue that China under Xi represents a regression into a past era of stronger repression akin to that under Mao. The fact that the SCS induces a change of not only behavior, but also thought, by influencing not only what you buy and where you go, but what you think and who you associate with, carries shades of China’s totalitarian past and reminds me in a certain sense of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), when thought control was near complete. It ironically “creates trust” and social harmony that satisfies the government’s definition of trust, yet sows distrust and suspicion amongst individuals who would have interacted in the absence of the SCS. 

    If the goal is to increase transparency and social responsibility, then it would intuitively make sense for government officials and citizens to be evaluated on the same publicly available scale. As many corruption cases and scandals across China have shown, this is quite a necessary measure. However, there is no guarantee that this will be the case, and is therefore a great missed opportunity to strengthen Chinese governance. 

 
3. If you are a citizen, are you informed about the new regulations/surveillance systems? If so, how? If you are not, do you still have some insight to share regarding this?

  1. I’ve not been informed about this, but I heard about it through foreign media. So, I cannot verify the neutrality and authenticity of this information.
  2. I am not a Chinese citizen (Chinese-American); however, many translations of regulations across provincial levels and at the national level are found here: https://www.chinalawtranslate.com/tag/social-credit/?lang=en

 

4. As far as you know, what would you say is the common reaction to this among the Chinese population?

  1. I don’t think many people would think this is a big deal, as people don’t have much individual privacy in the first place. People are used to measures like this and would probably think about the positive sides. I can see this act can have big impact on some groups of people, but they won’t speak out and many of them may have measures to protect themselves from this system.
  2. While SCS is still in its pilot phase, those who have won big from this have been known to brag proudly on Chinese social media. For the most part, though, many are unaware of the potential downsides that can arise from violating the system’s norms.


5. Have Chinese citizens any chance to affect this, or deny Chinese authorities to monitor and score everyone, and himself in particular?

 

  1. It’s not likely, especially in the public. However, people may find some ways to protect themselves from this if they can. People in general wouldn’t act on this together in big settings, but they have learned over time how to protect themselves in private.
  2. I highly doubt it. As stated above, big data under China’s Police Cloud specifically targets those who petition excessively. Voicing your dissent against SCS in this manner would likely only get you a one way ticket into being monitored by the very thing you are arguing against. Moreover, while it is technically legal to protest in China under its Constitution, Article 35 (“Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration”), in practice any assembly that calls for social change or jeopardizes public stability is considered unacceptable.

 

6. How do you think that this will impact on the Chinese society?

  1. It may increase public security and increase the government control on people, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But this could create more fear and anxieties for some people. The ones that are affected the most are social economically disadvantaged individuals because they don’t have the money and power to protect themselves from this, but at the same time, they are also the ones who are likely to create protest or disturb social order.
  2. 7 and 8. Answers for this can be found above. Essentially to recap, sowing distrust in the place of “trust”, heavy rewards, and even heavier punishments.

 

7. What’s in it for the people who will obey and do exactly what it takes to get a good “score”. And what happens if you don’t obey?

  1. This may affect their ability to travel, the ability to loans, the ability to get job opportunities and so on. It is like a credit score system, but it is more powerful and more widely enforces in every aspect of daily life. I don’t think having a stricter social control is totally bad, the crucial point is how to find the right balance that would help the security but do not discriminate against certain groups.
  2. 7 and 8. Answers for this can be found above. Essentially to recap, sowing distrust in the place of “trust”, heavy rewards, and even heavier punishments.

 

8. You are now in the US. Do you see a future for yourself living and working in China? Please elaborate.

  1. I can see myself going back to China. China is getting better economically and becoming a world power. I believe there will be a lot of opportunities in China. In particularly, if one is elite, the social control wouldn’t affect too much in his/her life. There are drawbacks to each system, and the US is not the best either (poor infrastructure, low efficiency, etc.…).
  2. *anonymized*