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China has developed an app that detects if poor people are nearby (no, seriously)

It’s like Venmo, only a million times worse.

wechat add-on for debt
Image: WeChat via China Daily

Back in October, I made the bold claim that Vote With Me – an app that allows us to access our contacts voting history – was possibly the most divisive misuse of personal data ever concocted that month, and one that would almost certainly fuel our world’s ever-hurdling path toward oblivion (or something to that effect).

As it turns out, I was wrong. Vote With Me *isn’t* the most divisive app ever invented, because China has just invented the most divisive app ever invented.

According to Business Insider, developers in a province of northern China are releasing an app that will tell users whether or not they are standing within 500 meters of someone in debt. The app’s name, I shit you not, is “map of deadbeat debtors.”

The purpose of the app, if the original report by the state-run China Daily is to be believed, is to “whistle-blow on debtors capable of paying their debts.” So in essence, it’s Venmo, but with complete strangers threatening to break your legs instead of paying you $20 for “pizza and butt stuff.”

While many key details about how the app works have yet to be revealed, it is reported that users will be able to download it as an add-on of sorts to WeChat, an instant messaging platform that over 1 billion residents currently use.

But wait, it gets worse

As it turns out, “map of deadbeat debtors” will coincide with the country’s social credit system that is set to become mandatory next year. What is a social credit system? Well, it’s basically a number given to every citizen, not unlike a credit score, that ranks your trustworthiness as a person based on your “ability to pay off loans and behavior on public transport.”

The argument for a social-credit system is that many people in China still have no formal access to traditional banks and therefore need an alternative system to assess whether they can pay off loans, rent houses, or even send their children to school.

So, it’s less “Angry Venmo,” then, and more the MeowMeowBeenz episode of Community with far darker implications.

Do you also dream of a dystopian hellscape in which strangers have instant access to you every secret and shortcoming? Let us know in the comments section or on our Twitter or Facebook.

Writer. Editor. Barelyknewer. Hate mail can be directed to j j o n e s @ k a r s f o r k i d s d o t e a r t h l i n k

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