According to the government, this new measure is meant to "protect the legitimate rights and interest of citizens in cyberspace", but there's an understandable, if necessarily polite and restrained, degree of suspicion doing the rounds on China's Weibo social media network. However, the government defends itself asserting that the new rule will help curb identity theft, phone scams, and reselling of SIM cards.
BEIJING, Dec 2 ― China will require telecom operators to collect face scans when registering new phone users at offline outlets starting yesterday, according to the country's information technology authority, as Beijing continues to tighten cyberspace controls.
Facial recognition technology is already in use in China to survey the population.
Last month Chinese state media announced the development of a new "super camera", and artificial intelligence-driven 500-megapixel camera capable of identifying individual faces in crowds of tens of thousands of people in "perfect detail". "Why is it so hard?", questioned one user.
"As someone who has had their identity stolen, I feel relieved", wrote one user in support of the policy on the microblog Weibo. "What they [the government] are afraid?" The technology has also been used for many commercial applications and by public security departments.
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The new legislation is part of China's wider efforts to keep close tabs on its citizens and monitor their activities and behaviours.
On Sunday, the nation rolled out a brand new measure that can require Chinese language shoppers to have their faces scanned earlier than they're able to buy SIM playing cards. In November, a professor filed what is believed to be the country's first lawsuit against the use of facial recognition. The "gait recognition" technology has reportedly already been rolled out in several Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai.
How widespread is the facial recognition in China? In 2017, it had 170 million CCTV cameras in place across the country with the goal of installing an estimated 400 million new ones by 2020.
Proponents of facial recognition argue it is more efficient and secure.