In the Northern province of Heibei, China, there is a new app which alerts users when someone in debt comes within 500 metres. One translation of the app’s name to english reads “map of deadbeat debtors”, but as with any translation, interpretation varies. The map can be accessed through WeChat and is meant, among other things, to enable users to identify which debtors might be able to pay their debts.
China’s social credit system, set to launch in 2020, is reportedly already responsible for inhibiting over 6,000 citizens from travelling domestically and internationally. Could this new WeChat plug-in map function signal the initiation of a new ecosystem of digital methods for monitoring citizens? Will personal information being shared and leveraged for interaction turn each smartphone user into a data collection and verification node to support the social credit system? In what ways might this transform Chinese society? Could lenders turn average citizens into private investigators, or could incorrect or misrepresented data pollute personal relationships? What other public, private, and market information might leveraged in innovative ways to scaffold China’s impending system?