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Yahoo! Japan’s new system looks suspiciously like a social credit score

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Yahoo, once a pioneering tech company, now a failed and former giant in much of the world, is still big in Japan. Well, in name only, as Yahoo! Japan, whose web services are dominant in that country.

But that’s not even the main takeaway from Bloomberg’s story about the criticism coming from users that the internet giant has had to deal with.

You might think that the only proximity between Japan and China – historical enemies, now countries with two distinct political systems – seems to be geographical. But think again, as Yahoo! Japan has prepared a rating system for the 48 million holders of its ID that, to some, looks uncannily reminiscent of one of China’s social scoring initiatives.

In China, such systems aim to bring under one umbrella a citizen’s financial and social reputation and are taken as yet more proof of the nation’s push toward creating a surveillance society. One such private system is Sesame Credit, which is not a part of the official government system.

Neither is the new Japanese product, the brainchild of Mizuho Financial Group, NTT Docomo, and others seeking ways to implement a FICO-like credit scoring service in their country.

Now, Yahoo! Japan users will have to be given a score “based on inputs such as payment history, shopping reviews, whether a user canceled bookings and the amount of identifiable personal information,” the article said.

The company will then make money from this by sharing the rankings, but apparently not the data that powers them with others, like the freelancing platform Crowdworks.

The old “opt-out” trick is employed here once again in a data harvesting operation carried out by large tech firm. It means that users are signed onto an option by default, and can only get out if they explicitly do it in the settings.

The decision to incorporate sensitive options by default instead of asking permission first (“opt-in”) is often criticized as creating a false sense of choice, considering that most users don’t bother going through the options.

Yahoo! Japan defended the “opt-out” model – but the company also promised that only the rating score, and not any personal data, would be shared with third parties.

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