Panopticon Reborn: Social Credit as Regulation for the Algorithmic Age

63 Pages Posted: 28 May 2020 Last revised: 15 Mar 2021

See all articles by Kevin Werbach

Kevin Werbach

University of Pennsylvania, The Wharton School, Legal Studies & Business Ethics Department

Date Written: February 1, 2021

Abstract

Technology scholars, policy-makers, and executives in Europe and the United States disagree violently about what the digitally connected world should look like. They agree on what it shouldn’t: the Orwellian panopticon of China’s Social Credit System (SCS). SCS is a government-led initiative to promote data-driven compliance with law and social values, using databases, analytics, blacklists, and software applications. In the West, it is widely viewed as a diabolical effort to crush any spark of resistance to the dictates of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its corporate emissaries. This picture is, if not wholly incorrect, decidedly incomplete. SCS is the world’s most advanced prototype of a regime of algorithmic regulation. It is a sophisticated and comprehensive effort not only to expand algorithmic control, but also to restrain it. Understanding China’s system is crucial for resolving the great challenges we face in the emerging era of relentless data aggregation, ubiquitous analytics, and algorithmic control.

Keywords: Social Credit, China, algorithms, regulation, governance, privacy

Suggested Citation

Werbach, Kevin, Panopticon Reborn: Social Credit as Regulation for the Algorithmic Age (February 1, 2021). University of Illinois Law Review, 2022, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3589804 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3589804

Kevin Werbach (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania, The Wharton School, Legal Studies & Business Ethics Department ( email )

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