China’s state-owned telecoms operator China Mobile is proposing global metaverse guidelines to the United Nations that bear eery similarities to the country’s controversial social credit system, Politico reported on Sunday.
A “digital identity system” for all metaverse users could be based on a mix of “natural characteristics” and “social characteristics.” Data points like occupation can be “permanently” stored and shared with police to “keep the order and safety of the virtual world,” China Mobile proposals state.
The guidelines are part of discussions between officials at the UN’s telecoms agency, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and tech experts. Experts who reviewed China Mobile’s proposals said metaverse users would be at risk of privacy and freedom violations if they were adopted.
“To build a unified digital identity system, to give each human a unique digital ID that includes social characteristics from social media and occupation — that sounds a lot like China’s social credit system,” Chris Kremidas-Courtney, a senior fellow at Brussels think tank Friends of Europe, told Politico.
Western officials have warned that China is seeking to push its controversial standards on the future of digital worlds, with both Chinese public and private actors pushing for these guidelines far more consistently than those from the US and Europe, according to a group member who spoke to Politico.
“Imagine a metaverse where your identity protocols are set and monitored by Chinese authorities. Every government must ask themselves: ‘Is that the kind of immersive world we want to live in?’” the group member said.
Under China’s social credit system, residents are ranked and scored based on their behaviour, occupation, social media activity, and a host of other characteristics. This data collection is often used by authorities to control citizens, such as barring international travel.