India and China have launched enormous projects aimed at collecting vital personal information regarding their billion-plus populations and building the world’s biggest data sets in the process. However, both Aadhaar in India and the Social Credit System in China are controversial and raise a plethora of political and ethical concerns. The governments claim that participation in these projects is voluntary, even as they link vital services to citizens registering with these projects. In this study, we analyze how the news media in India and China—crucial data intermediaries that shape public perceptions on data and technological practices—framed these projects since their inception. Topic modeling suggests news coverage in both nations disregards the public interest and focuses largely on how businesses can benefit from them. The media, institutionally and ideologically linked with governments and corporations, show little concern with violations of privacy and mass surveillance that these projects could lead to. We argue that this renders citizens structurally incapable of making a meaningful “choice” about whether or not to participate in such projects. Implications for various stakeholders are discussed.
|Social Science Computer Review
|Published - 2020
- Social Credit System