‘Social Scores’ Are Coming

Western governments buy into China’s facial recognition & surveillance technology



It’s been a long while since I entered the lottery at my local 76 gas station convenience store. The Mega Millions prize of nearly a billion dollars was too tempting, so I headed out to buy a Quick Pick. A pay-to-play $2 speculation raises my chance of winning a spectacular prize from no chance at all to one in 302,575,350. It’s almost like betting against the whole population of America; winning is possible but unlikely.

At the store, a robotic human asked for my driver’s license.

“Why? I’m not buying booze or cigarettes.”

“It’s store policy,” the muffled voice responded through a face mask.

“Ridiculous,” I whispered, flashing my ID. How can she check my facial features, since my mask covers all but my eyes?

“Take it out, I need to scan it.”

“What for?” I felt a head of steam building and sounded hysterical at this point.

“Store policy,” the female automatonic voice responded.

I heard a gent behind me say, “Dumb law, but they’ve been doing it for a while.”

Turning back to her, feeling disgusted and violated, I handed her my ID. She scanned it and gave me a Quick Pick. I felt angered by the unexpected lack of privacy.

I haven’t bought a lotto ticket in a long time and didn’t see this coming. Why are they scanning my ID for it? What’s going on here? 

Back at home, I did a Google search to find the motive behind this intrusion by Big Brother. I discovered that legal data-gathering started in 2012, and that Walgreens was later sued for selling customer data. The validity of an ID was secondary to Walgreens’ real motive: collecting data for future email marketing. What if my farmed data is stolen, and I’m made a hapless victim of ID theft or Medicare fraud?

Then there’s the State’s motive to consider. Is it too much of a stretch to assume our government’s ultimate purpose is “Social Scoring”? A Frontline (China Undercover) documentary shows how and why AI technology is now assessing the detailed social, ideological, and financial conduct of 1.5 billion Chinese citizens, especially China’s religious minorities. Falsified applications, theft, tax evasion, unpaid traffic tickets, on down to jaywalking or spitting on clean sidewalks — all result in low “social scores.” A low score can block access to personal credit cards, utility payments, or loans. As cash is replaced by digital transactions, the impact of all this is amplified. After re-indoctrination classes that certify a “social outlaw” has been absolved, the offender can return to full participation in society and be recognized as a comrade in communion with the body-politic.

Their AI “progress” is advancing as Western governments buy into China’s facial recognition technology. The ramifications of this are staggering. New York and London police have taken surveillance to a whole new level, and over 600 U.S. law enforcement agencies are now using Chinese surveillance camera systems in their downtowns. Purportedly to find and arrest criminals, these can also monitor and control citizen behavior.

My Google search dredged up a lot more scary stuff than I expected, or ever wanted to know. And lest I forget: tax-hungry California no doubt has already been using such ID scans to track tax evasion by people who claim to be nonresidents but actually live full-time in this state. Tax agents can track phone and car GPS data.

Lucky for me, I also learned that certain states do not tax lottery winnings, California being one of them. However, the Internal Revenue Service withholds 25% right away and gets up to 14% more after tax filing. If I skipped town after winning that billion dollars, they’d know just where to find me with ID tracking and facial recognition. Best I “render unto Caesarwhat’s due.

I am a law abiding citizen, so what’s to fear? It’s troubling me that no matter where I live, government surveillance will be scrutinizing and recording everything I do and say. AI is rivaling the omniscient God who knows if I sit down or rise up and discerns my thoughts from afar (cf. Psalms 139:2).


Richard M. DellOrfano spent ten years on a cross-country pilgrimage following Christ’s instruction to minister without possessions. He is completing his autobiography: Path Perilous, My Search for God and the Miraculous.

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