China has taken a big step to tighten the cyberspace controls. The Information Technology Authority of the country said that from this Sunday, the telecom operators of China must mandatorily collect the face scans of the users while registering the new phone at the offline outlets.
In September of this year, a notice was issued to the industry and information technology ministry of China. The notice was on – “safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of citizens online”. Due to this notice, the rule for real-name registration has been rolled out.
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”.
A China Unicom customer service spokesman said the Dec. 1 “portrait matching” requirement means that customers registering for the new phone number must register by turning their heads and blinking.
The September notice said: “In next steps, our ministry will continue to…increase supervision and inspection…and strictly promote the management of real-name registration for phone users”.
While the Chinese government has been calling for real-name registration for phone users – meaning ID cards are linked to new phone numbers – at least since 2013. AI enhancement is linked to the fact that facial recognition technology wins in China, where it is used for everything from supermarket checkout to surveillance.
When this news was released online, Chinese social media users had mixed reactions. Some were concerned and a few supported the notice of the December 1 facial verification. People are concerned about the leaking or selling of their biometric data.
One user commented on the comment of the article about the new rules on Weibo “This is a bit too much”.
Another commented: “Control, and then more control”.
Although researchers have warned of privacy risks associated with facial recognition data collection, consumers have embraced the technology widely – although China saw one of its first face-recognition trials last month.
According to the local court, in early November, a Chinese professor filed a lawsuit against a safari park in Hangzhou, eastern Zhejiang, claiming that face images are required to enter the city.
In addition to mobile users, China’s social media site Weibo was forced in 2012 to exhibit real-name registration.
Social media scrutiny in recent years has surpassed the Chinese government’s push to “promote the healthy, orderly development of the Internet, protect national security and public interests.”