China makes facial recognition mandatory for mobile phone users
Mandatory face recognition
China will require telecom operators to collect face scans when registering new phone users at offline outlets starting Sunday, according to the country’s information technology authority, as Beijing continues to tighten cyberspace controls.
Use of AI to verify people’s identities
In September, China’s industry and information technology ministry issued a notice on “safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of citizens online”, which laid out rules for enforcing real-name registration. 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.
What's with portrait matching?
A China Unicom customer service representative said that the “portrait matching” requirement means customers registering for a new phone number may have to record themselves turning their head and blinking.
Managing real-name registration
Though the Chinese government has pushed for real-name registration for phone users since at least 2013 — meaning ID cards are linked to new phone numbers — the move to leverage AI comes as facial recognition technology gains traction across China where the tech is used for everything from supermarket checkouts to surveillance.
Customers voice concern
Online, Chinese social media users reacted with a mix of support and worry over the December 1 facial verification notice, with some voicing concerns their biometric data could be leaked or sold. While researchers have warned of the privacy risks associated with gathering facial recognition data, consumers have widely embraced the technology — though China saw one of its first lawsuits on facial recognition last month. China already extensively censors and polices the web, removing and blocking content it does not want its citizens to see and talk about.