Updated: Mar 13, 2022
The State appears to be following China's blueprint for creating a "system of systems" it uses for issuing social credit scores.
By: Sloan Rachmuth
The North Carolina Longitudinal Data System (NCLDS) links education data from early childhood, K-12, univerities, and the workforce over time to evaluate policies and manage school performance. The system has been around since 2012.
Using a classroom data application called Powerschool, schools and the Department of Public Instruction collect students' test scores, grades, and other quantitative data. Individual data is matched with the student's Unique Identifier Number (UIN), which allows the data to follow the student throughout their academic career. As students leave schools and enter the workforce with their social security numbers, the Commerce Department continues the tracking process.
Taken individually, each of these data points don’t tell authorities very much.
This is why Superintendent Catherine Truitt and other members of North Carolina's Education Cabinet (NCEC) want to collect psychological and family data through the schools in order to gather data sets that can be used to create predictive algorithms. The technology can help the government intervene in the lives of citizens from cradle to grave, according to meeting minutes from February of this year.
North Carolina's Roadmap to a Longitudinal Data System published in 2020 reveals plans to create a large ecosystem of social monitoring through "knowledge visualization" that will allow the government to anticipate and respond to "opportunities and challenges" throughout a citizen's lifespan.
In the report, commissioned by Governor Roy Cooper and the NCEC, it is urged that the State should mine the data it collects on citizens to create analytics that can promtly flow to agencies inform "complex decisions. "
To design the new surveillance system, the Department of Public Instruction and school districts are advised to take an “equity approach” to the collection of data. This explains why schools are taking an aggressive approach to administering surveys that require students to reveal deeply personal information like this:
NCEC members, including Superintendent Catherine Truitt, State School Board Chair Eric Davis, Health and Human Services Director Mandy Cohen, and Governor Cooper are charged with getting buy in from the General Assembly to secure the funding and legislation needed to expand the current NCLDS system.
NCEC now wants to hire a governing board for the system with the authority to compel all government agencies to share data to create a “system of systems.” The system will fuse data sets from across state agencies and across time, which resembles the architecture of China's information platform used to issue its citizens credit scores, in part based on attitudes and beliefs that the CCP finds troublesome.
Currently, all outside requests for data must be approved by the DPI and DHHS, and the identities of individuals must be masked. However, government agencies on the platform are not required to secure a data-sharing agreement from contributing agencies.
Like in China, this system could integrate public and private data such as police records, mental health diagnoses, medical histories, emotional predispositions, gun ownership, religious background, and biometrics in the future. In an effort to "visualize" data, the system would be able to instantly expose connections between individuals that officials would otherwise be unable to detect - all using a social security number or facial recognition.
According to Human Rights Watch, the Brookings Institute and others who study China, the CCP's uses its surveillance system to fulfill three functions: collect personal data, report on suspicious data, and prompt investigations of people the system flags as problematic.
China uses its system of systems surveillance for social control and ethnic repression. North Carolina, on the other hand, intends to use its system to improve the lives of citizens.