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China's social credit system keeps a critical eye on everyday behavior

China's social credit system
China's social credit system keeps a critical eye on everyday behavior 02:36

BEIJING -- In some of China's largest cities, a high-tech effort is underway to bust low-level offenders like jaywalkers. Cameras record them going through intersections, zero in on their face and publicly shame them on nearby video screens.

It's all part of the Chinese government's new social credit system where people's daily behavior is monitored and rated.

"I think it's a good thing," one woman said. "It makes people more honest."

But this social credit rating goes far beyond a traditional credit score which is based on your finances. China's version factors in everything from jaywalking, to smoking on trains, to buying too many video games. If your score gets too low, you can be banned from buying plane tickets, renting a house or getting a loan.

China's social credit system keeps an eye on everyday behavior CBS News

Nearly 15 million people have already been prevented from traveling and journalist Liu Hu is one of them. He recently tried to book a flight but was told he couldn't because he was on the list of untrustworthy people.

"I can't buy property, my child can't go to a private school," he said. "You feel you're being controlled by the list all the time."

Chinese technology firms such as SenseTime are helping the government effort by developing advanced cameras that use artificial intelligence to track just about everything.

"We can tell whether it is an adult, a child, male or female," said one executive with the company.

Police in Beijing have been seen wearing glasses that can recognize faces linked to the government's national database, boosting arrests. Wu Fei is CEO of a company that makes the glasses, and he claims he doesn't know how the government intends to use it.

"I have no idea," he said.

We asked if he trusts the government with the way they're using the technology. "Sorry, I can't answer this," he responded.  

The fear is that the government will use the social credit scoring system to punish people who are not sufficiently loyal to the communist party, and trying to clear your name or fight your score is nearly impossible since there is no real due process.

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