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China Trials Deadbeat Map To Monitor Bad Debts

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 - Posted by Michael McCulloch

Authorities in China are trialling a new app which will enable users to check on their debt status according to ABC News.

The app, which is an add-on to Chinese social media platform, WeChat, has been rolled out in the Hebei province earlier this year. Nicknamed the "Deadbeat Map" the programs allows users to pinpoint the location of those who have failed to pay their debts within a 500 metre radius. Tapping on a person marked on the map reveals personal information about the individual including their name and the reason why they have been placed on the financial blacklist. Other information such as home addresses and identity card numbers are also partially shown.

The launch of the app has not been without criticism with many raising privacy concerns over the app. A representative of the Hebei Higher People's Court said in a statement, "The development and application of the map can further realise the connection and sharing of information on debtors and create a social honesty framework that limits those who lose their credibility in many ways." In response Delia Lin, a senior lecturer in Chinese studies at the University of Melbourne, said, "This is dangerous — it encourages people to take the law into their own hands. The people who cannot pay their debt because they are too poor, then who will be subject to this kind surveillance and this kind of public shaming. Basically, society becomes a virtual prison — instead of going to jail, those people's personal lives, and even their children's personal lives, are being affected."

China has been developing a social credit score system since 2011 with the aim of separating the "trustworthy" from the "disobedient" with behavour ratings then used to determine access to services ranging from transport to loans. Since its launch more than 18 million people have been banned from flying and 5.5 million prevented from buying rail tickets as a result of their debts.

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