China is determined to link real identities to the digital world. No surprise there. As of December 1st, if you sign up for a new cellphone or cellular data contract, you are required to show your national ID card and also submit to a face scan to verify their identity. This is meant to reduce fraud, but it also reduces your ability to use phone services in an anonymous way. It will be easier for the Chinese government to silence dissenters with this requirement.
Of course, there are privacy issues beyond that, too. China is known to use facial recognition to track and suppress ethnic minorities, and also uses it to spot travelers and cars that are on a state-run blacklist. We don’t know if China will get rid of face scans after the verification process, but we doubt it. They might also be prime targets for hackers who want photos to help commit fraud.
There has been opposition to widespread facial recognition in China and even the government promised to tone things down after a university tested facial recognition to monitor student attendance. Even so, we doubt that the Chinese government will back down on this as it will at least help stifle political opposition.
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