Italian city plans controversial social credit system

Italy’s seventh-largest city, Bologna, plans to introduce a “social credit” system to reward citizens’ good behavior, but critics warn of a potential dystopian scenario such as the one seen with China’s controversial social credit system.

The seat of the Emilia-Romagna region is developing an application that would reward those who demonstrate “desirable behavior” with so-called social credits. These behaviors coincide with general moral norms: citizens can earn points, for example, by following traffic rules, through optimal energy consumption or selective waste collection.

The name of the application is “Smart Citizen Wallet” and was unveiled at a press conference in Bologna on March 29 with the participation of Mayor Matteo Lepore. Massimo Bugani, director of the city’s “Digital Agenda,” also spoke at the event.

According to Bugani, the application can be seen as an investment towards the digital renewal of Bologna. The application is like Bologna getting a “new sewer system,” Bugani claimed, adding that more and more services will become digital in Italy in the coming years.

Currently, the legal status of the project is also questionable, as European Union directives do not allow mass collection of data from citizens.

In the Chinese social credit system, there are not only rewards, but also has penalties, such as restricted visa possibilities or higher taxes for “undesirable conduct,” all of it based on a set of criteria unknown to the public.

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