Tag Archives: China Social Credit Rating

Beijing Launches New Rule: Residents Must Pass Facial Recognition Test to Surf Internet

(Nicole Hao) The Chinese regime announced a new rule which requires residents to pass a facial recognition test in order to apply for an internet connection via smartphone or computer.

A woman uses a facial recognition device installed at a self-service supermarket in Tianjin, China on Aug. 21, 2019. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images)

The rule will be implemented from Dec. 1, 2019. In addition, no cell phone or landline number can be transferred to another person privately.

This is an upgraded restriction after the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) required all applicants to present a valid ID and personal information to register for a cell phone or a landline number since January 2015.

New Rule:

MIIT published the new rule on its official website and distributed it to all telecom carriers on Sept. 27, which includes three main requests.

First, all telecom carriers MUST use facial recognition to test whether an applicant who applies for internet connection is the owner of the ID that they use since Dec. 1. At the same time, the carriers must test that the ID is genuine and valid.

Second, all telecom carriers MUST upgrade their service’s terms and conditions and notify all their customers that they are not allowed to transfer or resell their cell phone SIM card to another person by the end of November 2019.

Third, telecom carriers should help their customers to check whether there are cell phone or landline numbers that don’t belong to them but registered under their names since Dec. 1. For unidentified numbers, the telecom carries MUST investigate and close the lines immediately.

MIIT said in the notice that it will arrange for supervisors to check each telecom carrier’s performance, and will arrange inspections to make sure all carriers will follow the rule strictly.

Purpose:

“The reason why the Chinese regime asks people to register their real identities to surf the internet is because it wants to control people’s speech,” U.S.-based commentator Tang Jingyuan told The Epoch Times on Sept. 27.

Authorities arrested hundreds of Chinese people in recent years because they posted a topic that the regime deemed sensitive, including the most recent Hong Kong protests.

“MIIT’s new rule on using facial recognition to identify an internet user means the government can easily track their online activities, including their social media posts and websites they visit,” Tang said.“Then these people become scared of sharing their real opinions online because their comments could anger the authorities and they could get arrested for it.”

Tang concluded: “I think MIIT’s new rule takes away freedom of speech from Chinese people completely.”

Facial Recognition in China:

The Chinese regime has used facial recognition systems to monitor people for several years now. In cities and public spaces such as train stations, airports, government buildings, and entrances of museums, police use smart glasses to check each passerby’s identity and whether they have a criminal record.

On the streets, millions of surveillance cameras capture and track people’s movements.

At crosswalks, facial recognition systems record jaywalkers, who are then fined 20 yuan ($2.81), and docked points on their social credit score. The Chinese regime’s social credit system assigns each citizen a score of social “trustworthiness.” A person with a low social credit score may not be allowed to board a train or airplane, or their child may not be admitted to a reputable school.

Inside classrooms, facial recognition technology monitors each student and reports their actions to the teacher and parents.

Even inside public restrooms, tourists and residents have to use facial recognition system to get toilet paper.

The Chinese regime hopes to install enough surveillance cameras to cover the entire country.

According to the latest report of U.S. based market research firm IDC, China spent $10.6 billion on video surveillance equipment in 2018, and spending will reach $20.1 billion in 2023. 64.3 percent of the spending in 2018 accounted for surveillance cameras.

IDC reported on Jan. 30 that it predicted China would have 2.76 billion surveillance cameras installed in 2022. 

Source: by Nicole Hao | Epic Times

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How They Control 1.4 Billion People

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China’s social credit system, which becomes mandatory in 2020, aims to funnel all behavior into a credit score.

A few months ago, you accidentally defaulted on a phone bill. The mistake affects your credit score: It’s hard to get a loan. You can no longer make jokes about Marco Rubio on Twitter; such remarks will algorithmically define you as a libertarian loon—another sort of person likely to default on social obligations. After a couple of close friends miss their student loan repayments, you can’t even travel: your social circle is now all “discredited, unable to take a single step.”

This is the incipient scenario in China, whose state-backed “social credit scheme” will become mandatory for all residents by 2020. The quoted text is from a 2014 State Council resolution which promises that every involuntary participant will be rated according to their “commercial sincerity,” “social security,” “trust breaking” and “judicial credibility.” 

Some residents welcome it. Decades of political upheaval and endemic corruption has bred widespread mistrust; most still rely on close familial networks (guanxi) to get ahead, rather than public institutions. An endemic lack of trust is corroding society; frequent incidents of “bystander effect”—people refusing to help injured strangers for fear of being held responsible—have become a national embarrassment. Even the most enthusiastic middle-class supporters of the ruling Communist Party (CCP) feel perpetually insecure. “Fraud has become ever more common,” Lian Weiliang, vice chairman of the CCP’s National Development and Reform Commission, recently admitted. “Swindlers must pay a price.”

The solution, apparently, lies in a data-driven system that automatically separates the good, the bad, and the ugly. But with President Xi Jinping, China’s most authoritarian leader since Mao Zedong, at the helm, much English-language coverage of the plan so far predicts “unprecedented” levels of dictatorial surveillance.

Commercial versions of the nascent national program are already in operation. Ant Financial, the finance arm of e-commerce giant Alibaba, is piloting Sesame Credit, which offers a range of perks, such as travel upgrades and deposit-free car rentals, to top scorers. But Sesame’s system, which assigns a rating between 350 and 950, is murky and complicated. The company says even innocuous activities, like late-night web browsing or buying video games, could see one’s rank downgraded for “irresponsible” behavior. One undergraduate saw her score plummet to 350 after being named in an unresolved civil suit: Sesame had automatically listed her as a laolai, a deadbeat, “subject to enforcement for breaking trust.”

The worst-case scenario is a form of high-tech Stalinism for our brave new world, in which those who toe the line are kept doped with rewards like fast-track visas for countries with compliant customs (developing regions deeply indebted to China via its “One Belt, One Road” could end up having to align themselves with Beijing’s emigration and other policies). Meanwhile, those whom the system considers dissenters, dropouts or deadbeats would be effectively excommunicated from mainstream society. How these miscreants are defined is one of the most worrying aspects. “I have no doubt that the current efforts are intended to produce a more authoritarian state,” Stanley Lubman, a Chinese law specialist at UC Berkeley, tells me.

“Good” behavior is equally subjective. Sesame Credit automatically upgrades customers who purchase curtains or diapers, for example—items which suggest a certain middle-class stability. This is partly because Sesame “is designed to incentivize behaviors that drive profits for Alibaba,” explains Mark Natkin, managing director of Beijing-based Marbridge Consulting, such as “heavier online and offline use of Alibaba’s payment tool, Alipay, and the user’s ability to recruit more friends to join their Alipay [social] circle.” Mrs. Chu, a middle-class working mother in her early 30s, tells me she finds Sesame “very convenient… because I have a high score, I can get refunds [online] quicker, without having to wait to return the items.”

But once compulsory state “social credit” goes national in 2020, these shadowy algorithms will become even more opaque. Social credit will align with Communist Party policy to become another form of law enforcement. Since Beijing relaxed its One Child Policy to cope with an aging population (400 million seniors by 2035), the government has increasingly indulged in a form of nationalist natalism to encourage more two-child families. Will women be penalized for staying single, and rewarded for swapping their careers for childbirth? In April, one of the country’s largest social-media companies banned homosexual content from its Weibo platform in order to “create a bright and harmonious community environment” (the decision was later rescinded in favor of cracking down on all sexual content). Will people once again be forced to hide non-normative sexual orientations in order to maintain their rights? An investigation by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab also warns that social credit policies would be used to discourage protest.

State media has defended social credit against Orwellian charges, arguing that China’s maturing economy requires a “well-functioning” apparatus like the U.S.’s FICO credit score system. But, counters Lubman, “the U.S. systems, maintained by three companies, collect only financially related information.” In the UK, citizens are entitled to an Equifax report itemizing their credit status. In China, only the security services have access to an individual’s dang’an, the personal file containing every scrap of information the state keeps on them, from exam results to their religious and political views.

While outside observers agree that the situation likely bodes ill for many unwitting citizens, few have considered how vulnerable the system is to the corruption, con artistry, and incompetence that plagues much of Chinese society. Who will have access to the data, and how will they be able to use or abuse it? Will it be shared between ministries and departments, or jealously guarded? Can it be manipulated, altered, faked—or stolen?

Private data in China is already openly (and cheaply) available on eBay-like platforms such as Alibaba’s own Taobao, making the company indirectly responsible for both harvesting and selling its customers’ data. Scams and identity theft are infuriatingly common. Sesame Credit requires highly sensitive personal information, such as degree certificates and title deeds, to be uploaded to its cloud to enhance users’ credit scores — cyber security experts say such a centralized digital database would be a treasure trove for hackers.

Meanwhile, reports in China’s financial media suggest the commercial systems are already being abused, with micro-lenders using it to scam clients. “Sesame Credit… is still unable to control the quality of the data reported by partner lenders,” observed a Caixin article. “Information often includes errors like mistaken user identity, and some lenders deliberately misrepresent user information… they will actually put their favorite customers on their blacklist shared with other lenders, so that other platforms will reject the customer, allowing the original lender to have exclusive access.”

And it’s not just businesses and crooks looking to game the latest gimmick: Already accustomed to having their data mined and lives surveilled, tech-savvy Chinese are wondering how they can rig their scores—and entrepreneurial hackers will be more than willing to oblige. On the popular Q&A site Zhihu, users constantly wonder how to boost the numbers: “Can I click-farm this?” many ask. The top-rated answer skewers the system mercilessly:  

With my countrymen’s knowledge for seizing every opportunity, and penchant for taking shortcuts, it won’t be long before we’ll have plenty of companies willing to farm your score. What’s that? Sesame scores are connected to the frequency you use your credit cards? Simple—my company will help swipe and repay your card for a year, then charge you for how many points your score accumulates.

What? Sesame points are related to the scores of your circle of friends? Simple. I’ve got plenty of high-score friends: I’ll bring you in. What’s that? You’re afraid of bringing down everyone else’s scores? Don’t be. Using some bullshit card-swiping method, we’ll aggregate the IDs of all your parents, relatives and friends in the countryside to bring up your score, and when the time comes, divide up the points evenly. Don’t think it’s not possible.

The Zhihu user explains that he is simply applying a pattern of past behavior to the new model: “Some things that you can’t do in other countries, you can do in China, like fake divorces to get around housing purchase limits, or driving restrictions in Beijing. I’ve a friend who got a dozen buddies to help him enter the license-plate lottery… Of course I think there’s an urgent need for a credit rating system. But I really don’t have faith that they’ll do it well.” 

Marbridge’s Natkin acknowledges some dangers and drawbacks, but suggests social credit ratings “will also create a greater disincentive to engage in anti-social behavior, like a landlord capriciously deciding not to return a security deposit, or a shared-bike user parking in the middle of the street.” These are everyday grievances in China’s scofflaw society that many will be glad to see gone, or at least punished.

Riding the country’s flagship high-speed rail this year, I overheard an announcement warning passengers that bad behavior on board “could affect your personal credit”—now it’s been revealed that a whole range of infractions, from smoking to having the wrong tickets, could land citizens on a “deadbeat blacklist.” (So, too, will offering “insincere” apologies for defaulting on loans; one must not only learn to grovel, but like it.)

To work effectively, social credit requires Chinese citizens to place complete trust in both their unaccountable government and vast cartel-like corporations. And therein lies the problem: A secretive scheme that proposes to (literally) codify credibility within a society that inherently lacks any is more likely to undermine public trust that instill it. Few would knowingly risk signing up for such a scheme; unfortunately, by 2020, no one living in the People’s Republic of China—foreign or Chinese—will have a choice.

Source: By Robert Foyle Hunwick | New Republic

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