Communist China has recently assigned a “trust score” to each of its citizens in a move that would enable the government to prohibit activists and “disloyal” citizens from holding government jobs, communicating via social media or event traveling by train or plane. Just as terrifying is the fact that American companies don’t seem to think the move is a bad idea, as is evidenced by Facebook and Apple’s decision to assign “trust scores” to each one of its many users.
Apple has painted its “trust score” decision as a benevolent one that will only benefit consumers. The company recently noted that while it intends to collect information regarding how you use your device, it is only doing so to identify and prevent fraud by ensuring that content bought using its devices is in fact being purchased by the owner of the device. However, Apple has not explained how it will collect users’ calls and emails, or how long the data will be stored for. There is also no mention of the ability to opt out of having Apple collect data without warrant or consent; the company has simply stated that the move is an updated included in iOS 12.
Facebook’s move to create a “trust score” for its users is even creepier than Apple’s. The social media giant, which has already earned a bad reputation for its numerous data privacy violations, is now giving all its users a “reputation score” based on a zero to one scale, with one being the highest, most trustworthy rank. The company has made it clear that its ” trust score” is directly linked to Facebook’s efforts to fight what it views as “fake news”.
If a person or entity routinely makes claims against a news outlet that Facebook considers to be credible, that person’s trust score would be lowered. If, on the other hand, a person flags content he or she believes to be false and Facebook’s (primarily liberal) fact-checkers agree with the individual, that individual’s trust score could be raised. The move is truly nothing short of an attempt to punish people who hold politically incorrect points of view rather than adhering to a mainstream narrative.
Even so, flagging questionable news content on Facebook isn’t the only move that could lower one’s trust score. Facebook recently noted that there are literally thousands of ways it gauges user credibility; however, it has refused to divulge the criteria it judges its users by. To make matters worse, the company has not clarified how the score will be used.
Twitter is already using the behavior of individual’s in a person’s network to determine how visible a person’s tweets should be, and there is concern that Facebook would likewise consider the behavior of one’s friends, colleagues and/or relatives when deciding on a user’s trust score. Of even more concern is the fact that Facebook has not given the public any assurance that its users’ trust scores would not be made public. Given the fact that educational institutions and potential employers are already using social media networks to find out more about potential students and employees, the idea of having a “trust score” assigned algorithmically by a social media giant is truly a frightening, one as it could make it difficult for those who don’t adhere to mainstream beliefs to obtain higher education and/or even good employment in the future.
The idea behind the First Amendment allowing freedom of speech is that people should be free to speak their minds without suffering undue consequences. Unfortunately, such an idea is rapidly becoming a thing of the past as those who hold politically incorrect beliefs are being targeted by social media outlets who are intent on pushing a mainstream narrative.
The idea of having an algorithm-assigned “trust score” is one that has no place in a free society. Such a scoring system will likely be abused at some point in time not just by social media companies, but others who may be able to find out information about another person’s score and use it against him or her. If ever there was a time to dump companies that collect massive amounts of data on users and then use that data against them, it is now.
~ Liberty Planet