China has just declared Smartphone Face Scan mandatory for all users, and the reactions are mixed on Chinese social media platforms. The facial verification is valid since December 1st, 2019, and the people either support it or express their worry for the collective good. And, while some who want to preserve their privacy would welcome this, it is interesting to see how a country with approximately over 1.4 billion people and some of the biggest telecommunications houses deal with this.
The notice was first issued in September, as the Chinese industry and information technology ministry said they are working towards the “safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of citizens online”. This laid out the rules for the real-name registration enforce, but it also opened doors for the AI (artificial intelligence) and other methods for verifying the identity of users when taking a new mobile phone number.
China Unicom representatives for the customer service stated that starting from December 1st, the registration process for a new mobile phone number will possibly demand a recording of a user, with head turn and blinking. The notice also 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“
It seems that real-time registration is what it’s all about, as this isn’t really news since the Chinese have actively pushed the project since 2013. Only, at the start, they utilized ID cards with links to new mobile phone numbers and then attempted to move onto facial recognition, as the tech gained momentum. Face Scans are still in plans for everything in China, as it seems, from surveillance to supermarket checkouts.
However, despite the people’s best interest being advertised as the slogan for the security developments, media sources in China show that the reactions are mixed, and actually leaning the other way. Comments from “This is a bit too much” to “Control, and then more control” are perhaps best explaining it all, while professional researchers also join in on the bandwagon by saying that facial recognition technology also brings security risks of its own. Mainly targeting privacy, the one thing these security measures claim to be attempting to secure more.
Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, is ranting with negative comments, while a professor in China actually sued a Hangzhou safari park, located in eastern Zhejiang province, for asking for his face scan. Weibo already once had to change their game for these Chinese telecom security measures in 2012, when they included a real-name registration. However, it is the increasing population on social networks that are being used by the government to further their cause, and the rest of the world is watching in anticipation as to what will happen next…