It’s a futuristic and frightful concept cleverly captured in Black Mirror’s ‘Nosedive’ episode, in which a system ranks each person with a numerical score that affects everything from where they live to how they travel and who they socialise with.
But this disturbing dystopian drama is far from fictional in China, which is now in the process of developing a Big Brother-like “social credit system” that will assign a number to each of its 1.4 billion citizens.
Rewards for a high score can range from better interest rates to promotions at work. A high social score may even boost your online dating profile.
However, a low-ranking social score can ban you from buying plane and train tickets, cars or property – and even keep your children out of top schools. Indeed, it was widely reported that 17.5 million would-be air travellers were blocked from buying tickets last year for “social credit” offenses including unpaid taxes and fines.
While in Britain, we may be accustomed to credit checks and social-style scores (such as your ranking on eBay or Uber), a survey of 3,000 Brits by DBS screening website, uCheck, overwhelmingly found (over 80%) that they would flatly reject any similar type of system being implemented in the UK. However, for strictly hypothetical reasons, the company sought to dig a bit deeper into the fabric of society to ask Britons:
‘If a social credit system were to be implemented in the UK, what score (out of 10), would you assign yourself, based on your own past behaviour?’
In a moment of candid self-reflection, the average East Midlands resident thought they were worth a solid 7.3 points out of ten. Perhaps we may on occasion go over the speed limit, or even steal some stationary from the office, but on the whole it appears we are positive contributors to society. However, it is worth noting that this score was above the national average of 7.1.
The following interactive map shows how scores compare across the UK and by industry:
When comparing by gender, the survey discovered that women in the East Midlands ranked their scores slightly higher than men: 7.3 compared to 7.2.
The study also set out to find out how employees in various industries would rank their colleagues’ behaviour out of 10 to see if there was a discrepancy in different fields of work. Workers in the healthcare industry ranked their colleagues highest across the industries at 6.6/10, whilst those in the engineering rated theirs lowest at just 4.4/10.
uCheck also discovered that over a quarter of Brits think people’s everyday behaviour in society has improved over the last decade. That’s despite what some people on social media have to say about problematic public behaviour. Local community pages such as neighbourhood watch groups have taken on the role of the ‘Facebook police’, posting pictures and videos of incidences they deem inappropriate or incorrect in their areas. A quarter of Brits admit that the power of social media has made them more self-aware of how they behave in public. Indeed, over one-third of people deem it acceptable to post pictures or videos of citizens behaving badly without their consent on social media sites.
“Conducting background checks for employment is a very important process as they screen for criminal histories and help ensure workplace safety. However, as with most things in life, there is a fine balance to everything! The system we have in the UK works well and does not impinge on other aspects of people’s lives” says George Griffiths from uCheck.