In a World of Economic Ice…

“Wow, this is next-level insanity,” said the email from colleague Chris Campbell, editor of our sister e-letter Laissez Faire Today.

Chris and I were emailing back and forth last month about a new “credit score on steroids” being developed in China.

The ACLU calls it “the ultimate tool of social control… Everybody is measured by a score between 350 and 950, which is linked to their national identity card.

“In addition to measuring your ability to pay, as in the United States, the scores serve as a measure of political compliance. Among the things that will hurt a citizen’s score are posting political opinions without prior permission, or posting information that the regime does not like, such as about the Tiananmen Square massacre that the government carried out to hold on to power, or the Shanghai stock market collapse.

“It will hurt your score not only if you do these things, but if any of your friends do them. Imagine the social pressure against disobedience or dissent that this will create.” And because everyone’s scores will be posted publicly, you’ll know who’s dragging your score down.

“Those with higher scores are rewarded with concrete benefits. Those who reach 700, for example, get easy access to a Singapore travel permit, while those who hit 750 get an even more valued visa.”

Gosh, it’s a good thing we don’t have anything like that here in the land of the free.

Oh, wait, what’s this? “Social Media Activity Might Affect Your Credit Score,” says a Chicago Tribune headline.

No longer is your payment history and such good enough for FICO, the best-known company that calculates credit scores. With so much of your personal life out there to be observed in the Web, FICO is developing ways to grab it and add to your profile.

“Now,” says the paper, “with so much more personal data out there, companies have come up with the software to capture it. Generally, the technology allows a credit rating company to search for certain key words, phrases and slang terms for drinking and partying — like getting smashed, trashed and wasted…

“If you look at how many times a person says ‘wasted’ in their [Facebook] profile, it has some value in predicting whether they’re going to repay their debt,” FICO CEO Will Lansing tells the Financial Times.

Oy. We’ve long had contempt for the FICO score. It says nothing about your income or how your debt load compares with your income.

The social media profiling isn’t on the Chinese-level scale, of course… but we can’t help recalling the words of NSA whistleblower Bill Binney, who said in 2012 the electronic elements are all there for a “turnkey totalitarian state.”


Dave Gonigam

for The Daily Reckoning

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