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China: Mobile users now required to have their faces scanned when registering for new services, raising concerns on data breaches

Author: BBC (UK), Published on: 10 December 2019

“China due to introduce face scans for mobile users”, 1 December 2019

People in China are now required to have their faces scanned when registering new mobile phone services, as the authorities seek to verify the identities of the country's hundreds of millions of internet users.

The regulation, announced in September, was due to come into effect on [1 December].

The government says it wants to "protect the legitimate rights and interest of citizens in cyberspace"…

When signing up for new mobile or mobile data contracts, people are already required to show their national identification card (as required in many countries) and have their photos taken.

But now, they will also have their faces scanned in order to verify that they are a genuine match for the ID provided…

The new regulation for telecom operators was framed by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology as a way to "strengthen" this system and ensure that the government can identify all mobile phone users…

Jeffrey Ding, a researcher on Chinese artificial intelligence at Oxford University, said that one of China's motivations for getting rid of anonymous phone numbers and internet accounts was to boost cyber-security and reduce internet fraud.

But another likely motivation, he said, was to better track the population: "It's connected to a very centralised push to try to keep tabs on everyone, or that's at least the ambition."…

… hundreds of social media users voiced concerns about the increasing amount of data being held on them.

Many others complained that China had already seen too many data breaches…

…facial recognition is increasingly becoming a part of daily life and commercial transactions in China. It's used more and more, for example, to pay in shops and supermarkets.

…there has been some blow-back. Earlier this year, a university professor sued a wildlife park for making facial recognition mandatory for visitors - sparking a wider debate about the state's mass collection of data on its citizens…

Mr Ding said it was clear that there is increasing backlash against China's widespread adoption of facial recognition technology.

Such criticism used to focus on fears of data theft, hacking and abuses by commercial companies, he said. However, increasingly, citizens seem willing to criticise how the Chinese government might exploit such data to track the population.

Read the full post here