According to some experts, the idea of providing each person with a digital ID that also contains their social traits and other personal information is more akin to the Chinese social credit system.
China is proposing a strategy to exert control over people’s activities in the metaverse by developing a scheme that looks like its social credit system. This became evident through China Mobile’s proposal for a “Digital Identity System” for virtual world users.
The proposal suggests creating IDs based on natural and social traits and getting data on individuals, like their occupations and distinctive characteristics. The collected information would also be securely stored and shared with law enforcement to ensure order.
According to some experts, the idea of providing each person with a digital ID that also contains their social traits and other personal information is more akin to the Chinese social credit system. The credit system has generated controversy since it was first introduced. The government employs it to evaluate and rank the moral character and trustworthiness of citizens and businesses. It requires collecting data like financial records, social interactions, online activities, and more to score various entities.
These scores can subsequently influence citizens’ eligibility for diverse activities and privileges. They can also determine whether an entity should face penalties for undesirable behavior. Potential penalties include travel limitations, restricted job access, limited loan and business prospects, curtailed activities, public humiliation, and communication restrictions.
One of the primary concerns about a metaverse regulation system resembling China’s credit system is that it contradicts the fundamental principles of utilizing the metaverse. There’s a risk of compromising privacy and freedom.
The Proposal Has Received Mixed Reactions from Experts
China Mobile proposed the strategy at the second International Telecommunication Union (ITU) metaverse focus group meeting, and it could be voted upon in October.
Although China is making various plans in preparation for the future of the internet and setting standards that will guide the running of the virtual world even more than the United States and other European participants in the ITU, this move has been met with mixed reactions among experts.
Chris Kremidas-Courtney, Senior Fellow for Friends of Europe in Brussels, said that China seeks to lead in metaverse development and align it with its state-controlled digital system. Having these standards is the initial step in creating a future where China sets the norm for emerging technologies.
Another expert who also contributes to the ITU metaverse focus group and knows about the matter expresses mixed feelings about it. He said:
“Imagine a metaverse where your identity protocols are set and monitored by Chinese authorities. Every government must ask themselves – Is that the kind of immersive world we want to live in?”
Matt Sheehan, a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, did not like the idea. He stated:
“The ITU is the body that China has done the most damage to. Chinese actors flood it with bad proposals, often because they get government subsidies for filing them. But the result is that technology companies just don’t pay attention to ITU standards anymore.”