China’s Plans to Implement Social Credit System in the Metaverse Raise Privacy Concerns
China is making efforts to introduce a digital identity system resembling its controversial social credit system within the metaverse, according to proposals from state-owned telecoms operator China Mobile. These proposals suggest the creation of a “Digital Identity System” for users of online virtual worlds or metaverses. This system would incorporate users’ “natural characteristics” and “social characteristics,” including personal data points like occupation and other attributes. The information would be “permanently” stored and shared with law enforcement to maintain order and safety in the virtual world.
The concept of the metaverse entails a network of interconnected virtual worlds driven by technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and simulations. China’s approach is reminiscent of its social credit system, which scores citizens’ trustworthiness based on various criteria and can result in restricted access to public services for those with poor scores.
China Mobile’s proposals have been submitted to discussions with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a United Nations agency that establishes global technology standards. This approach reflects China’s strategy of influencing global standards in emerging technologies.
Critics argue that these proposals could compromise privacy and the freedom to connect, principles that define the current internet landscape. Chinese organizations are reportedly submitting more proposals within the ITU metaverse focus group compared to those from the US and Europe, potentially giving China an advantage in shaping future standards.
The ITU’s metaverse focus group plays a significant role in setting standards for the immersive internet. The participation of Chinese organizations and their focus on defining standards could impact the future of metaverse technology and global telecommunications infrastructure.
Experts highlight that China’s push to set standards in international organizations like the ITU is diminishing the organization’s credibility and influence. Western technology companies are becoming less attentive to ITU standards due to the influx of questionable proposals from China.
China’s pursuit of standards-setting in the metaverse aligns with its broader goals of technological leadership and control over emerging technologies. The potential implementation of a social credit system within the metaverse raises concerns about privacy, freedom, and surveillance.
As China strives to assert its influence over the metaverse’s future, questions about the balance between technological advancement and fundamental rights continue to emerge on the global stage.