July 12, 2020 | News | No Comments
Authorities in China are trialling a new app which will enable users to check on the debt status of around them, as part of a developing social credit system aimed at monitoring the behaviour of the country’s 1.4 billion citizens.
Nicknamed the Deadbeat Map, the app, an add-on to the Chinese social media platform WeChat, was rolled out in a trial in Hebei province last week.
Critics have raised privacy concerns over the app, on which users can check if people within a 550 yard radius have failed to pay their debts. Only by tapping on a person on the mini map, the app will reveal personal information including their full name and partial home address.
“The development and application of the map can further realise the connection and sharing of information on debtors and create a social honesty framework that limits those who lose their credibility in many ways,” the Hebei Higher People’s Court told South China Morning Post.
WeChat founder Tencent said in a statement that “user privacy and data security are our top priorities".
China began developing the social credit score system in 2011 to rate individuals, businesses and authorities, with the aim of separating the trustworthy from the disobedient. Behaviour ratings are then used to determine access to services ranging from transport to loans.
According to a 2014 policy outline, it applies to four areas: government affairs honesty, commercial honesty, societal honesty and judicial credibility.
More than 18 million people have so far been banned from flying and 5.5 million prevented from buying high-speed rail tickets as a results of their debts, according to a Supreme People’s Court website.
Delia Lin, a senior lecturer in Chinese studies at the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute, said the “deadbeat map” marked an unsurprising escalation of the social credit system.
Those unable to pay debt due to poverty will find themselves "subject to this kind of surveillance and this kind of public shaming,” she told ABC News.
China has also launched a similar platform on WeChat that seeks to tackle crime.
Local residents in Xinjiang – a region that operates internment camps – are now able to report suspected terrorist activities and security hazards, and are offered up to 200 yuan (£23) for valuable information.
That platform was launched by the Communist Party of China (CPC), the Xinjiang Regional Committee and the CPC Xinjiang political and legal commission, and is named Xinjiang Pingan Eija.