Social Ratings are coming, which will change the way how companies will do business in the near future. Social Ratings are another reason why we shouldn’t share everything online.
Social ratings are just a glimpse of what’s coming and how our own data will be used against us.
But, before we talk about what Social Ratings are and how they are going to impact us, let us first understand the basics of Online Privacy and data collection.
When it comes to Online Privacy, we can divide the entire population of the world into four categories.
- First, those who don’t even understand what exactly the issue with Online Privacy is. Well, as I always say “Be aware, and become wiser”.
- Second, those who understand the issue of Online Privacy to some extent, but they think that it’s okay if the Government is watching because they’re not doing anything illegal or it’s okay if Facebook and Google are profiling everything about them because it’s not harmful, but showing more relevant advertisements. (watch this video, if you really think that)
- Third, those who try and understand the deeper issues associated with Online Privacy and try to spread awareness.
- Fouth, who are making an effort and working towards providing alternate solutions, products, or services to make this world a better place.
The first two categories should look at the below to understand the consequences in a serious way:
Or in a comic-way:
Today, we all understand that companies like Google, Facebook, and a lot of advertising and aggregator companies are profiling everything about ourselves.
In fact, they collect and track each and every move of ours as long as we are online. Unfortunately, we are online and connected all the time now. It will not be incorrect to say that we are being watched 24×7.
The good things are also happening, where these companies’ wrongdoings are being exposed. Cambridge Analytica is the best example of how data collected about ourselves is being misused. Companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple, who were never bothered before, have suddenly started showing concerns for our data and privacy because these exposures started impacting their business.
Lawmakers are realizing the importance, catching up, and creating policies. Below are the most mature policies that have been issued by the Governments so far.
- California Online Privacy Protection Act (CalOPPA),
- The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
However, there are a few very basic flaws with this whole process and that is us. Yes, it is us, you and me, and nobody else.
These basic flaws are also the biggest reasons for so much hype about Privacy for so long now, and this hype is not going anywhere for a very long time until there is enough awareness amongst all of us.
Basic Flaw #1
- Privacy is an individual’s choice.
- Everyone has their own definition of cleanliness. Some people take a shower twice a day and some once in two days. The same goes for Privacy. Everyone has their own definition of Privacy.
- The government can’t define Privacy for us. They can only come up with basic guidelines for doing business. That’s exactly what they are doing by coming up with these regulations.
- We don’t bother about reading those lengthy documents, which we don’t understand. Why? because they are legal documents, which we will never understand.
- We always hire a legal counselor for legal things, isn’t it? So, why it is not expected for reading the Privacy Policies.
- Well, that’s the basic flaw #1. An average population can’t understand those lengthy Privacy Policies. The Government needs to do a better job there, but when we will become responsible enough then? We can’t rely on others to protect our lives, right?
Basic Flaw #2
We are used to living in a world where something can either be right or wrong, nothing in between. We are being protected by the law against any wrongdoings. This gives us the feeling of being free and safe.
Nobody can murder me without facing legal consequences, right? It’s the Government’s job to create laws to protect us.
But, Online Privacy is slightly different. The Government has given us the power to control our own privacy. They can’t define privacy for us, because it is an individual’s choice.
So, the Government said that if you have given legal consent for your murder in writing, then murder is not wrong and no one can be punished for your murder.
That’s how Facebook and Google started tracking us everywhere. It doesn’t matter whether you use any of their products or not, they still track us. This is the basic flow #2.
So, now what we need to understand is that so much data being collected every day can’t be just for the few relevant ads, right?
That’s when the buzz words like Big Data Analytics, Machine Learning (ML), Natural Language Processing (NLP), and Artificial Intelligence (AI) come into play.
All these technologies need huge data sets before they can produce results that can be used by these big companies.
So we are providing the data including our biometric and voice information, machines are learning about us, and intelligence is being applied to infer what can be done with it.
The first meaningful (negative) consequence for the common public is Social Ratings.
What is Social Rating?
All of us already know about Credit Rating Systems. It is basically a scoring system based on:
- how much we borrow
- how much we spend
- how do we pay it back
The problem with the existing Credit System is that it is a reactive system. So, Unless you commit a crime, you are a good person. The government and other companies are trying to come up with a predictive model of human behavior.
Predictions can’t be correct always, right? Well, that’s where the problems will start. Who cares, if you don’t agree with the predictions made about you.
Social Rating, similar to the Credit Rating System, is the rating system based on your online behavior. Your online behavior is determined based on the data collected about us by the Government, or companies like Google and Facebook, which will rate us as an individual based on various factors of human behavioral characteristics like:
- What do we eat
- Whom do we meet
- Where do we go
- Who is in our social network
- What do we watch
- What and who do we like
- How much we drink,
- What and how much we stream every day
Well, the above is just to give you an idea, actual data collection and inferences are way beyond our imagination at this point.
Prediction based systems require huge data to analyze and we are already providing it to them so that they make predictions about us.
How this is going to impact us?
This data will define our trustworthiness and basis which we will either be blacklisted or whitelisted. In each category, there will be a score assigned to us, which will decide our fate.
Can you imagine that playing loud music, eating in transit, or violating traffic rules are also the factors, which will decide our score?
Some of you might already be aware that New York’s Financial Services has officially allowed determining the insurance premium by analyzing data from social networks.
For those declared “untrustworthy,”
- May not buy business-class train tickets or to lodge at certain hotels
- the opportunity for our children to attend their preferred high school or college may be taken away
- employment opportunities. (The government encourages employers to consult the blacklist before making hiring decisions.)
- Citizens who behave inconsiderately in public, like walking their dogs off-leash, can have their dogs confiscated and be required to take an exam to get the pets back
- “Those, who rank closer to the bottom will effectively be second-class citizens,” Newsweek reported about the social credit score.
- If the computer says you don’t qualify for a loan, you won’t get one — even if you’re a decent person with a good income
- Children of “untrustworthy” residents may be banned from attending private schools and even universities
Other factors, which may negatively impact your score, are:
- How much time you spend every day on streaming television, films, and video games
- Criticizing the government on social media
- Sharing articles online that you weren’t sure were factual
- Disobeying traffic laws when driving, or crossing the road without looking both ways
- Involved in ill-advised spending sprees
- Not paying your bills on time
- Making reservations at restaurants or hotels but not showing up
- Failing to correctly sort personal waste
- Fraudulently using other people’s public transportation ID cards
Essentially, everything from the way you spend your money and behave on social media to the people you associate with would affect your score and you will be rewarded or punished.
There are positives sides too…
The trustworthy (whitelisted category) with a high score may gain access to better social privileges.
As of June 2019, according to the National Development and Reform Commission of China, 26.82 million air tickets, as well as 5.96 million high-speed rail tickets, have been denied to people who were deemed “untrustworthy” (on a blacklist), and 4.37 million “untrustworthy” people have chosen to fulfill their duties required by the law.
The social rating system has already been implemented in some form or shape in countries like Chile, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, and Venezuela.
Dictatorship is coming, which will control human behavior now. Are we ready for what’s coming?