27 September 2023

Eyes on the web: China’s move for citizens’ ID to be photographic

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Rosie Perper* says Chinese internet users will soon need to use facial identification to apply for new internet or mobile services.

Image: Thomas Breher

Chinese citizens will soon have to start using facial identification in order to sign up for internet services or get a new mobile number.

The Chinese Government announced last month that residents applying for a new mobile or internet device will have their faces scanned by telecommunications carriers.

The new rules will apply from 1 December.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), which is the state Agency responsible for internet and technology regulation, wrote that the decision was part of its moves to “safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of citizens in the cyberspace” and prevent fraud, according to Quartz.

Recent reports indicate that China has around 854 million internet users.

The new legislation will also ban residents from transferring their mobile numbers to other people.

According to Quartz, China appears to be the first country to require facial ID to sign up for mobile and internet services.

The new legislation is part of China’s wider efforts to keep close tabs on its citizens and monitor their activities and behaviour.

Last month, Chinese state media announced the development of a new “super camera”, an artificial intelligence-driven 500-megapixel camera capable of identifying individual faces in crowds of tens of thousands of people in “perfect detail”.

State media said the device, which is five times more powerful than the human eye, could have “military, national defence and public security applications”.

China last year also said it developed a new surveillance camera that could identify users based on their walking style and silhouette.

The “gait recognition” technology has reportedly already been rolled out in several Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai.

Chinese censorship and monitoring have soared under Chinese President, Xi Jinping, and thousands of new censorship and surveillance initiatives have been issued every year.

In 2014, the Xi Government announced plans for its “social credit system,” a vast, mandatory ranking system of all of its 1.4 billion citizens.

According to the Chinese Government, the ranking system seeks to reinforce the notion that “keeping trust is glorious and breaking trust is disgraceful”.

The plan, which has already been implemented in some cities, will be fully implemented next year.

Blocking the footpath, jaywalking, fare evasion, and even loitering can lower your social credit score.

Punishments for maintaining a low social credit score include being banned from taking trains, having your internet speed cut, and being publicly shamed.

* Rosie Perper is Global News Reporter at Business Insider, covering the Asia-Pacific and Middle East. She tweets at @RosiePerper.

This article first appeared at www.businessinsider.com.au.

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