China Develops App to Point Out 'Deadbeat Debtors' in Your Area

A new app will allow Chinese citizens to tell whether anyone in debt is located within 500 yards of them.

In what critics might view as an Orwellian move, officials in the province of Hebei created an app that can be accessed through the social media platform WeChat, China Daily reported.

Related: Government malware is trying to turn activists' phones into spying devices

The state-run newspaper said that the app, named "Map of Deadbeat Debtors," alerts users with a flash if they are close to someone in debt, showing the person's exact location.

Users will get personal information about the debtors, including their names, national ID numbers and why they're on the blacklist, The Next Web reported.

The aim is to make it easier for people to whistleblow on debtors who may be capable of paying off what they owe—for instance, alerting the authorities if they are seen going on a spending spree.

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Chinese currency in front of the Shanghai skyline. An app has been created in China to expose debtors. Getty

The new system, which will come into use in 2020, would also help to assess the many people in China who have no formal access to banks.

"It's a part of our measures to enforce our rulings and create a socially credible environment," said a spokesperson for the Higher People's Court of Hebei province.

Technology website BGR described the app as an extension of China's new social credit system, which attaches a "trustworthiness" score to citizens based on metrics like how they behave in public.

BGR said this system is discouraging people in China from booking flights and train rides for fear of drawing attention to themselves.

The site said that citizens can also get negative scores from playing too many video games and posting fake news online. However, so-called "credit points" are also available for volunteering and donating blood.

News agency Xinhua reported last October that the online platforms would be maintained by local news organizations, using a database provided by the courts.

The China Banking Regulatory Commission will instruct financial institutions to use the information before they approve credit to customers.

Experts have not yet sounded an alarm over what impact this will have on citizens' privacy. In November, Foreign Policy reported that "myths about the system are spreading."

Jamie Horsley wrote that China's party-state is collecting a vast amount of information on its citizens, "but contrary to the mainstream media narrative on this, Chinese authorities are not assigning a single score that will determine every aspect of every citizen's life—at least not yet."

China Develops App to Point Out 'Deadbeat Debtors' in Your Area | World