Today’s must-read is the Wall Street Journal take out on China’s plans for a “social credit” system, which underscores the potential dark side of big data. More than three dozen local governments across China are beginning to compile digital records of social and financial behavior that could include everything from jaywalking infractions and subway fare cheating to violations of family planning rules. Eventually, it also could include data on a person’s internet activity. Algorithms would use this data to calculate a person’s “social credit” score, which could be used for all sorts of purposes, including determining access to loans or government services. The system purportedly would “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.”
The program is part of President Xi Jinping’s determined effort to ensure social stability, and seems likely to involve a wide array of Chinese businesses as well. Fortune’s Scott Cendrowski reports that Alibaba’s Alipay is one of eight companies involved in early experiments, and it’s likely companies like Tencent and Baidu will eventually be pulled in.
The development is a reminder of Kranzberg’s first law of technology: “Technology is neither good or bad. Nor is it neutral.”
More news below.