Campus Reform | EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: The rise of 'social credit' and Big Tech's role...students react

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: The rise of 'social credit' and Big Tech's role...students react

The communist government in China is developing a national reputation system, known as the "social credit" system, that is anticipated to affect every aspect of Chinese society by 2020. And, according to Fast Company, technology in the U.S. is enabling the creation of a similar social credit system based on data obtained by technology titans such as Facebook, Instagram, and Google. 

In China, the implementation of a social credit score not only impacts citizens' privacy but also their social status. Similar to a financial credit score, individuals begin with an initial score. From there, points are added or deducted depending on one's actions, which are monitored by China's expansive surveillance state. In China, negative actions are often met with forms of public shaming, including blacklisted citizens' photos being broadcast on TikTok and their personal information appearing on WeChat.

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So, could China's "social credit" system ever come to America? And if so, how would college students react, especially given that much of their online data has been largely accessible to Big Tech companies for more than a decade? Could these students' online activity from years ago impact their future ability to buy first-class plane tickets through a "social credit" system, similar to what is being implemented in China today?

In February, the New York Department of Financial Services (NYFS) made an announcement allowing insurance companies to collect data from clients' social media to set premiums. In one of the most populous states in the country, social media posts have the potential to impact citizens' insurance premiums, provided insurers can prove these actions do not discriminate. 

All of this is possible because social media users allow technology companies, like Google and Facebook, to access  their data, often without knowing just how much of their data those companies are able to view. 

“Most of us don’t read them,” Edwin Diaz, UCLA sophomore, said of the terms and conditions of apps he frequents.

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What if companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc. shared users' data with insurance providers in states besides New York? What would happen if one's ability to rent a car, reserve a hotel room, or purchase a plane ticket depended on that individual's "social credit score," built on data collected by Big Tech companies?

Campus Reform's Fiona Moriarty-McLaughlin went to the University of California-Los Angeles to ask students. 

“It’s an invasion of privacy,” one student said. “I personally am a very private person. I don’t like sharing too much of my personal information online. The fact that [Big Tech] is checking my Instagram followers and Uber ratings – I think that is too much. It’s just too invasive.” 

Another student chimed in: “The issue for me is that these are the only [modern] platforms for communication. I would be careful how I use [them] and what I use [them] for.” 

Yet another student added, “A lot of what goes on we don’t pay attention to. We might unwillingly be giving away these rights by not paying accurate enough attention to what we’re signing up for.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @factswithfiona