Profiling, facial recognition, surveillance cameras, personal data…what if the State is spying on you?

A year ago, newspapers published some inflammatory articles on the hot topic of China and the profiling of populations.

Today, nothing has changed. China still stores massive amounts of information on its citizens and is using Shanghai as a test. In the form of good and bad points, citizens and students are divided into groups in order to separate the wheat from the chaff and to persecute the guilty.


Facial recognition: social repression

In China, there are more than 200 million video surveillance cameras. Cameras are placed in public spaces to protect citizens. But protect them from what?

Incivility? Danger stemming from others? Or the threat posed to society and the established social order?

If doubts existed from the beginning of the project, today there’s no need for any more doubt. These cameras, equipped with facial recognition algorithms, are capable of recognizing 194 points on the human face and linking the image of each pedestrian to a name. The goal is to use information systems to identify and keep track of all violations to the legal framework to which the individual has been subjected.


Which offenses can be penalized?

They can range from offenses punishable by law to the small infractions that pepper our daily lives. And that each of us has probably committed in the past…

We’re talking about smoking in public, stealing a free ride on public transportation, jaywalking or even publicly expressing an unfavorable opinion against the government.

Each offense costs points in the Social Credit System (or social grade), until the credit reaches zero.

Once the credit has been depleted, one can no longer have access to everyday life’s most basic needs. Indeed, purchasing transportation tickets and traveling (by rail or air) is banned, as well as the ability to form a company, purchase a home or enroll a child in a private school.


Divide in order to better rule

The “good students” are equally rewarded. A convincing example for holders of a positive credit: no need for a guarantee to book a hotel. Indeed, the citizen who accumulates a number of points on his or her social credit no longer needs to prove their honesty and reliability in the repayment of debts.

However, China’s goal in this initiative is NOT to promote good behavior over pointing the finger at the bad students. Since 2013, there have been more than 10 million people on the black list. These lists, established by the government, group people together who break the rules…those who “threaten the powers that be”.


Will this system really be expanded to the entire country?

In 2020, all residents of China will be subject to this system. This means there will be more than 1.3 billion people whose information will be collected and stored in the database of the Middle Kingdom. China is also planning to share data from tax authorities, courts, police reports and even e-commerce sites in the near future. Social networks won’t be spared, either.

Beware of unpaid bills, scammers and late payments!


Today the penalty incurred is to find oneself on the black list. We should perhaps also fear the ostracizing of the marginalized…of those who don’t fit neatly into the boxes.

And why not, in the worst scenario, fear the birth of a State who, above and beyond showing favor to people with good grades, refuses to include those who don’t fit the criteria imposed?

The definition of eugenics, wouldn’t you agree?


To read: Singapore: Security in a ‘Smart Nation’