China introduces mandatory face scans for phone users

Elias Hubbard
December 2, 2019

China is referring to this new mandate as "portrait matching" and said in a September notice that its intention is "safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of citizens online".

Following various rumors, China will now start scanning faces before issuing a new mobile phone or a new SIM card to people living in the country.

Because most Chinese internet users access the internet through their mobile phones, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology believes the latest regulations will "strengthen" the system.

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 Chinese government has pushed for real-name registration for phone users since 2013 which required ID cards to be linked to new phone numbers.

Chinese social media users reacted with a mix of support and worry over the December 1 facial verification notice with some voicing concerns that their biometric data could be leaked or sold.

Meanwhile, companies including surveillance equipment manufacturer Dahua Technology, China Telecom, and ZTE have been proposing new worldwide standards for facial recognition, video monitoring, and surveillance at the United Nation, the Financial Times reported. And well, reports suggest that a few have already been taking a facial scan for new customers since previous year.

While telcos have accepted the government's rule without much pushback, netizens and critics see it as another step toward building a dystopian surveillance state.

The move aims to prevent SIM card resales and to crack down on telecommunication fraud, as well as improve cybersecurity and anti-terrorism campaigns, according to MIIT. Should facial scans by mandatory for buying a SIM card?

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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