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June 15, 2022

Wednesday Morning Rant [Joe Mannix]

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Soft Social Credit

Enterprises build various dossiers about you. You opt in to them whenever you give your phone number, birthday, or other identifying information for the company's discount club or sale program. They are developed every time you go online - from browser fingerprints to tracking cookies to your IP address to more. They are built by the social media giants that merge information you provide them (if you're a member) as well as what happens outside of their walled gardens. Your credit card and check transaction histories. Everywhere you look, there's a dossier.

These data operations are everywhere. This weekend, I needed to buy something and the clerk asked me if I was part of their club. I said I wasn't. She went right into, "well I'll sign you up" and started the interrogation. Nothing unusual so far, but she refused to take "no" for answer. I ended up having to decline four times and then ask for the manager before she backed off. The data demand is fairly common, but the high-pressure tactics are more uncommon - for now. It will keep getting worse.


But why? For now, the answer is relatively tame and no different from before: money. The more they know about you, the more effectively they can sell to you. If you buy plates, they'll try to sell you placemats later. If they can detect disruptive events - new job, new baby, new spouse, new house - they will try to exploit that opportunity to change brand preferences and behaviors. This is all creepy and it's incredibly invasive.

Beyond that, though, my fear is that all of these systems will serve a dual purpose. If you want a "social credit" system here, this would be a great way to do it and I fear that subtlety will be the normal play. You might get kicked out of the supermarket discount club. With increasing eCommerce from a dwindling number of vendors courtesy of the COVID response, it will be easier than ever to have different prices show up for different people, with "bad" people paying more. This could even apply in meatspace: scan a QR code and get one or the other menu of prices. The cherry on top is that the "bad" people don't even know they're being targeted. They just know they're poorer than their neighbors but don't know why.

Big, state/party-aligned companies using their dossiers to subtly impose social credit would be much more compatible with this country than the hard CCP-style approach. It would be difficult to detect and, strictly speaking, it's a voluntary system. You can opt out (or be kicked out) and you can still do everything you did before - you'll just pay 5%-25% more for everything you buy. Why make you chafe under obvious bonds when they can just make you poorer while raising margins and tax receipts? That would be Social Credit, but done the right way. The American way.

Or I'm a deranged paranoiac. That's also entirely possible.

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posted by Open Blogger at 11:01 AM

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