Lest we be tempted to think that engineered inequity is a problem “over there,” just recall Donald Trump’s idea to register all Muslims in the United States on an electronic database – not to mention companies like Facebook, Google, and Instagram, which already collect the type of data employed in China’s social credit system. Facebook has even patented a scoring system, though it hedges when asked whether it will ever develop it further. Even as distinct histories, politics, and social hierarchies shape the specific convergence of innovation and inequity in different contexts, it is common to observe, across this variation, a similar deployment of buzzwords, platitudes, and promises.
What sets China apart (for now) is that all those tracked behaviors are already being rated and folded into a “citizen score” that opens or shuts doors, depending on one’s ranking.56 People are given low marks for political misdeeds such as “spreading rumors” about government officials, for financial misdeeds such as failing to pay a court fine, or social misdeeds such as spending too much time playing video games. A low score brings on a number of penalties and restrictions, barring people from opportunities such as a job or a mortgage and prohibiting certain purchases, for example plane tickets or train passes.57 The chief executive of one of the companies that pioneered the scoring system says that it “will ensure that the bad people in society don’t have a place to go, while good people can move freely and without