SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) - It's a futuristic and frightful concept cleverly captured in a popular episode of “Black Mirror” on Netflix.
The premise is a system rating every person on everything they do, providing a numerical score that determines everything from where you live to how you travel and who you are friends 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 that country's nearly 1.4 billion citizens.
"The Chinese government has embraced technology in a major way as one method of social control,” said San Diego State political science professor Lei Guang.
Guang is also director of UCSD's 21st Century China Center.
He says this social credit system is an ambitious attempt by the Chinese government to pull together all kinds of personal information from finances to personal behavior.
Community service or buying Chinese-made products for example could boost your score.
While negative activities like tax evasion, fraud, smoking in non-smoking areas or even jaywalking - captured on one of China's hundreds of millions of surveillance cameras - could bring your number down.
Rewards for a high score can range from better interest rates to promotions at work. A high social score may even boost your profile on China's largest online dating site.
While a low-ranking social score can ban you from buying plane and train tickets, cars or real estate - and even keep your kids out of top schools.
"The intent is to create a black list,” said Guang.
Journalist Lie Hu is one of those who've already fallen on the black list and has been banned from flying after issuing a series of tweets criticizing the government.
"I can't buy property. My child can’t go to a private school,” said Hu. “You feel you are being controlled by the list all the time.”
Richard Madsen is a sociology professor at UCSD who has studied China extensively.
He says this push toward a nation-wide "social credit system" is the latest move to keep track of and control the population, which has roots in China's "dossier" system; a secret file maintained on each citizen throughout their lives.
"They know where you are. They can track you,” said Madsen.
As technology advances, that ability to track ordinary citizens becomes even more disturbing.
"I don't know how far it's going to go,” said Madsen. "The implications are scary.”
The concept is especially scary, considering how this new scoring system truly works has been kept secret.
"If you have a score that you don't like, how would you dispute it? How would you know what went into it,” said Madsen.
"The implications for the freedom of speech, that I think is tremendous and that's what worries a lot of people,” said Guang.
Sunny San Diego weather continues Monday, with sunny skies and near or above average afternoon temperatures. This pattern will continue until Wednesday-Thursday when a low pressure passes to the north, bringing clouds, cooler temperatures, and even a small chance of light rain.
Police in the South Bay fired pepper balls at a suspected car thief after he resisted arrested Sunday afternoon, according to authorities.
An investigation was underway Sunday into a possible arson attack at a mosque in Escondido, according to authorities.
Every year, CBS looks for more than a dozen people to live in a house together and compete for $500,000 on “Big Brother.” On Sunday hundreds of people gathered in Miramar to show off why they deserve to be the next houseguest on the show.
From the cost of feeding the zoo animals in 1978 to the grand opening of the first Legoland outside Europe in 1999, grab your ticket and let’s take a roller coaster ride through the past 40+ years of San Diego attractions.
A woman in her 40s riding a bicycle suffered major injuries when she was struck by an SUV during a traffic crash in El Cajon, a police lieutenant said Sunday.
San Diego Habitat for Humanity dedicated the first four homes of an affordable housing community in Logan Heights on Saturday.
At least one person was killed and three were injured in a crash on state Route 163 in Balboa Park early Saturday morning.
Chaos ensued on a Phoenix freeway on Friday morning after a car crashed off the side of the road. As witnesses pulled over to help, they saw a man stabbing a woman to death.
Sheriff's deputies arrested more than two dozen people as part of a warrant sweep in South Bay on Saturday -- including a man who tried to resist being taken into custody.