China's pervasive "social credit" scheme is still in development, but already profoundly shaping public behavior

Since its first stirrings in 2015, the Chinese social credit schemes have sprouted a confusing and frightening garden of strange growths, from spraying and shaming jaywalkers to blacklisting millions from flying or using high-speed rail, including journalists and other critics of the Chinese state.

Many worry that China's system will spread to the rest of the world (its origins like with a US-trained Chinese scientist who was deported to China during the Red Scare).

The social credit schemes are presently a patchwork of public, private and public-private systems that use ongoing surveillance, state records, and snitch-lines to reward and punish Chinese people for behavior that the Chinese establishment frowns on, from indebtedness to beating up quack doctors to chasing pop stars through airports.

Wired UK's Charles Rollet rounds up a selection of the social control levers that are worked by Alibaba's Sesame Credit: aimhacking game-cheaters lose the ability to get loans; high scorers get to skip the queues for health-care; dudes with high scores get access to women-only dating apps (where their scores are displayed in their profiles); bicycles and even apartments can be rented without a deposit; and so on. There's even a plan to block people from eating in restaurants if their scores drop low enough.

In a sign that the government is using the social credit system to deepen its control civil society, social credit is being harnessed to crack down on "illegal social organisations." The Ministry of Civil Affairs has announced it would take measures to blacklist people involved in such organisations, which were claimed to be largely fraudulent or copycat associations often using vague names in their titles like "international" to swindle people.

The regulation state that one's social credit would be affected if they were found to be involved in running such an organisation. But what makes a "social organisation" legal or illegal in China sometimes has a lot to with its political stance. China has cracked down on foreign-funded NGOs, while the same ministry attacking "illegal social organisations" recently required that the legal ones include Communist Party "building" in their charters to "ensure their correct political direction".

The odd reality of life under China's all-seeing credit score system [Charles Rollet/Wired UK]

(via Naked Capitalism)