Privacy was not a hot topic in the recent Australian election, but it should have been. This is because the City of Darwin is adapting elements of the Chinese social credit system for use in Australia. The Chinese system’s monitoring of citizens’ behaviour has been widely condemned as “Orwellian”, with frequent comparisons to the dystopian near-future sci-fi of Black Mirror. But for Australians it’s pitched as progress towards a digitally integrated future, embedded innocuously in the “Switching on Darwin” plans for a smarter city.
To see why this is a worrying development for Australian democracy one must first play a patient game of join the dots.
Dot 1. One of Darwin’s six “sister cities” is Haikou, capital of the Chinese island province of Hainan. Links established through sister-city relationships are commonly understood to be a springboard to wider networks of co-operative arrangements. Such connections may provide opportunities for cultural exchange, but also for technological exchange.
Recently there have been reports on how smart city plans in Darwin draw inspiration from the Chinese social credit surveillance system.