China has introduced a new rule for all phone users starting Dec 1. All the people registering for new SIM cards or those who plan on changing their service provider are required to actually scan their faces in addition to providing their identity cards. This move has been introduced to reduce fraudulent activities and to increase security.
All telecom firms across the country had received guidelines from the Chinese government back in September itself stating that they need to employ artificial intelligence tactics and various other techniques as a means to verify a person’s identity during the SIM registration process. So far, people needed to submit only valid identity proofs for this purpose. However, with this new rule being imposed, the devices required for facial scanning need to be present in all physical stores affiliated to these telecom companies by Dec 1.
The Chinese ministry of industry and information described this as a move towards protecting the legitimate rights and interests of people in the country. This also makes it easier to track mobile phone and Internet users. A few telecom companies in China had started to implement this method even before the government made it mandatory. In fact, many social media platforms across the country had mandated people to use their real name identities by using their phone numbers during the sign-in process.
The government in China feels that by employing this method of authenticating users’ identities, it has only increased security. However, this kind of initiative taken up by the ministry of industry and information has evoked a mixed response of users from people all across China. While some have welcomed this move saying that it was required for a long time, others feel that it will only reveal whereabouts of a person even if he does not wish to.
The facial recognition method of authentication has been used in quite a few public places for some time now. In November, Guo Bing, a professor at Zhejiang Sci-Tech University, filed a petition against this technique of personal verification. Apparently, the professor, whose face was scanned much to his chagrin at a safari park in Beijing, feels that this system of authentication by scanning a person’s face against his wishes is not right.
On the Chinese social networking site Weibo, people posted mixed reviews regarding the entire verification technique. One person stated that this is a good move, especially for those whose identities have been stolen in the past. Another person felt that it was a really good initiative even though it was coming a bit late.
However, there are a section of people who are apparently not very happy with this entire verification process. While some felt that their privacies were at stake, others protested saying that they do not wish to divulge any personal details if maintaining their integrities are so difficult.
A person actually refused to undergo facial scanning, saying that he does not wish to sell his face just like the way his phone number was sold. Human rights advocates also stated that with this step taken, China is only proceeding towards the “dystopian surveillance state”, a condition faced by the people of the Xinjiang region. Here, people are constantly being watched over for any signals of unrest or dissent.
Image source: WSJ