Will we all be rated online soon?

Remember in 2016, season 3 of Black Mirror started with an incredible episode, “Freefall” (“Nosedive” in English). If you haven’t seen it yet, go watch it on Netflix. For 1 hour, the scriptwriters of the series describe a society in which all individuals can assign others a score ranging from 0 to 5. These scores regulate the lives of the residents. It’s impossible to get credit, a good job, or live in the neighborhood of your dreams if you don’t have a good GPA. Some people live like this just to improve their grades.

From companies to individuals

Six years later, what the writers of Black Mirror had imagined seems to be becoming a little more reality every day. For several years now, we have learned to appreciate restaurants, shops and hotels. And then, little by little, it started to affect people. Do you think your Uber driver was rude? That your Deliveroo courier wasn’t fast enough? That your dentist hurt you? Anyone can already express it by rating professionals online, sometimes with significant consequences for the person.

“Take Power, Appreciate Your Teachers”

Deviations soon appeared. The sites have allowed students to rate their teachers. This was especially the case with Note2be. With his provocative slogan “Take power, rate your teachers”, he proposed to anonymously rate teachers out of 20 according to six criteria: interesting, clear, available, fair, respected and motivated. Thus, each teacher had, without knowing it, a file with his name, his name and his class. In France, the National Commission for Informatics and Freedom (CNIL) has confirmed the illegality of the teacher evaluation site and it has been banned by the French courts.

A reality in China

Although it may still be necessary to wait a few years for such rating systems to be authorized in our country, some countries that are less attentive to individual liberties have not long hesitated to take the plunge. In 2018, Chinese President Xi Jinping introduced a social credit system called the Social Credit System. The principle is that each citizen receives a score based on hundreds of criteria, such as crimes and offenses committed, but also the ability to repay a loan. This note, for example, can prevent him from taking the train or plane.

Soon, Human Rights Watch became concerned about this situation. “Those with low scores will face obstacles in everything from finding work to getting their children into the schools they want. We do not know exactly who will manage the system, how we will be able to challenge the results, or even if the system is legal”, warned a researcher from the NGO.

The risk of “manipulable and subjective” criteria.

In the spring of 2020, Jean Tirole, Nobel Prize in Economics, dedicated a long interview to L’Obs. In particular, he pointed out the fundamental questions posed by the Chinese evaluation system. “Some criteria for determining a result can be reasonable, objective and generally accepted as beneficial to society: paying off debts, not avoiding taxes, having a respectful behavior towards the environment, the Highway Code or the law… But others are very easily manipulated, subjective. , or they can be related to behavior that is not accepted by most individuals and the central government: for example your political opinions, your religion or the comments you leave on the Internet. , assessed the Nobel Prize 2014. public power or the majority. We dare not imagine what an authoritarian or populist regime can do with such a system! “, he warned.

Our society increasingly notices

Along with the widespread use of facial recognition, the assessment of individuals is scary and scary in China. Can we imagine it spreading to Belgium one day? One thing is certain, we live in a society that tends to float more and more, in more and more areas. According to Pierre-Marie Chauvin, teacher-researcher in sociology, the practice is not new, it even dates back to antiquity, but it has been ‘multiplied’ by the Internet. Currently, “moral and legal protections” prevent the development of such systems in our country, the sociologist underlines in Parisian. But will it still be like this in ten years? Nothing is less certain…

“Be careful not to believe that democracies are immune to such excesses, it is always possible to slip from a democracy to an illiberal democracy, then to an authoritarian regime. This is why we must now think about social assessment, as we should have done before the epidemic crisis about tracking social relationships. We need legal walls, constitutional guarantees. Otherwise, through this type of system, a majority can always impose its choices on a minority,” said Jean Tirole.

Elon Musk can create such an application in two days

From a technological point of view, Western countries could easily launch an individual rating system similar to that used in China. From our debts to our donations, through our speeding tickets, in a multitude of areas, a lot of data is collected and stored about every citizen. “If one Elon Musk decides to make a dedicated app… he can do it in two days,” says the Parisian, head of a start-up in Nantes that supports companies in managing their customer reviews.

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