The first European social credit system is being developed in Italy, which is controversial because of its similarities to China’s infamous social credit system. This application, already operating in Rome, gives reward points to citizens who have ‘good behavior.’ 

The so-called “Smart Citizen Wallet” system will reward people with points for things like recycling, using public transportation, managing energy well, and anything else that the state deems worthy of rewards.

Those who use the application and have what they call “virtuous behaviors” will be rewarded with gifts, such as discounts on purchases and services, cultural activities free of charge, etc., which are then redeemed for the points obtained. 

According to the local newspaper of Bologna, Corriere di Bologna, the application is voluntary. It will be launched this autumn in the northern Italian city while it is in its experimental stage in Rome. 

Massimo Bugani, director of the city’s “Digital Agenda,” discussed the implementation of the system with the mayor, Matteo Lepore, at a conference on March 29. 

Bugani said that many services in Italy would soon be digitized and that the new smart wallet app for citizens was part of an “ambitious project” to introduce digital innovation in the city.  

“Obviously no one will be forced to participate,” he said, mentioning that “those who want to will be able to give consent when downloading and using the app.”

“We want to make them understand that they are not ‘losers,’ but that their behavior is rewarded,” said Bugani.

According to Life Site News, the similarities with China’s social credit system, where citizens receive points if they comply with the rules imposed by the regime, brought a lot of controversy, and criticism was not long in coming on social networks. 

One Twitter user directly classified it as terrifying. 

While Privacy Network, an Italian company specializing in digital privacy, warned about the risks in a statement: 

“These practices, if poorly developed or used, can lead to serious limitations on, and violations of, citizens’ rights and freedoms, as well as discriminatory practices, which are also achieved through technological means, such as ‘social credit’ systems (or social scoring).”

The company also said that it requested, via legal channels, information on whether AI (artificial intelligence) methods are involved and who are the suppliers and promoters involved. 

China is one of the pioneers of smart cities. It currently has more than 700 smart cities, and hundreds more are in the process of incorporating the technology.

People today can make purchases simply by looking at a camera that identifies them, but at too high a price, that of being under constant surveillance by the regime, which exercises control over their assets and restricts their freedom. 

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