STARTING early December, China now requires telecom operators to collect face scans when registering new phone users at offline outlets, as Beijing (北京) continues to tighten cyberspace controls.
In September, China’s Industry and Information Technology Ministry (國家工業和信息化部) issued a notice on “safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of citizens online”, which laid out rules for enforcing real-name registration.
The notice said telecom operators should use “artificial intelligence and other technical means” to verify people’s identities when they take a new phone number.
The September notice said there will be further steps to increase supervision and inspection and to strictly promote the management of real-name registration for phone users.
Though the Chinese government has pushed for real-name registration for phone users since at least 2013 – meaning ID cards are linked to new phone numbers – the move to leverage AI comes as facial recognition technology gains traction across China, where the tech is used for everything from supermarket checkouts to surveillance.
Online, Chinese social media users reacted with a mix of support and worry over the facial verification notice, with some voicing concerns that their biometric data could be leaked or sold.
In November, a Chinese professor sued a safari park in Hangzhou (杭州) for requiring face scans for entry.
(This article is published on Junior Standard on 12 December 2019)
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