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The Editorial

Social credit ratings?

I never used to worry about privacy laws.

John Benton, Editor

Figure Image
Capturing our data?

I just naively thought: ‘I’ve got nothing major to hide. So, no problem?’

But times have changed. Facebook is in trouble. Mark Zuckerberg, who famously started the Internet enterprise from his room at Harvard in 2004, felt constrained to take out adverts in newspapers to apologise. The online giant had failed to prevent the personal information of 50 million Facebook users being harvested in 2014 without their consent. The now defunct political consultancy, Cambridge Analytica stands accused of using the data to try to influence US elections. Similar Internet shenanigans by the Russians are alleged. For all our pin numbers, passwords (who can remember them all?) and encryption, it seems that the computer age has left us digitally vulnerable.

Happening in China

Recently, Doug Casey, a US atheist and property investor describing himself as an anarcho-capitalist, put out an interview. We are all aware of credit ratings given to us by VISA etc. related to our income and ability to pay bills. But Casey speaks about the government in China going a step further. A social credit system is being brought in. We are not talking about financial support for the poor. The Chinese government will soon be able to prevent people from accessing everyday services if they aren’t deemed ‘good citizens.’ The Communist Party will decide your ‘social credit rating’ from the way you live, as shown by what you spend your money on, your communications on WeChat, what you do or do not say on social media, your political views and what friendships you have. A high score would mean benefits – perhaps access to the best universities, while for a low score you will be penalised – perhaps not being able to obtain a passport. Online data, it appears, will be used as a tool for controlling the masses. Who needs the Big Brother surveillance screens of Orwell’s 1984 when all the government needs to know is digitally accessible?

Opting out?

The immediate defence would seem to be to opt out of online transactions, Facebook and the like. Just use cash, write letters not emails and bale out of all WhatsApp groups. However, not only does it seem that cash is being slowly phased out (the banks find it a nuisance), but, as we have seen from the recent Windrush scandal, (in which the details of thousands of immigrants from the Caribbean in the 1950s and 1960s were destroyed), lack of data and documentation raises suspicion and can be hugely detrimental. Many people who came to the UK or were even born in this country, were threatened, by the authorities with being barred from access to the NHS and even with deportation. In China, those who fail to comply are likely to be branded enemies of the state.

Could social credit rating be rolled out here? Hopefully not. But, if it was, we know what the yardstick would be. The measuring rod for our social credit rating would be so-called ‘British Values’, with its underlying secular philosophy and built-in commitment to ‘equality’. And we know how that would probably pan out for Bible-believing Christians. Prepare to become a second- or third-class citizen?

This line of thought paints a dark picture. But we shall survive as first-class citizens in God’s sight. Contemplating a dark vision of the end-times, Daniel was told: ‘Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever’ (Daniel 12.3).