China's rollout of facial recognition technology sparks concerns

Beijing implements face scans on mobile users

China on Sunday introduced a new rule that requires people to have their faces scanned when registering mobile phone services, as experts and even state media raised concerns there were not sufficient measures in place to safeguard people's privacy.

If you need to pick up a new SIM card in China, you're now required to have your face scanned to verify your identity.

The move, announced in September is due to come into effect today as the government says it wants to "protect the legitimate rights and interest of citizens in cyberspace". Last year, the media noted that the police were able to pick out of a crowd of 60,000 fugitives in concert using the technology. Telecom operators should use this facial scan to match the identity of the person to their identity documents.

It's not clear that China will get rid of face scans after the verification process, potentially adding more sensitive data to the mix. The United States expanded its trade blacklist in October to include these firms, and others, barring them from buying components from U.S. companies without USA government approval.

Facial recognition has been gaining momentum in China.

In recent times, the nation has develop into a world chief in facial recognition, as privateness considerations which may impede the event and deployment of the expertise elsewhere have been given a low precedence in China.


The Chinese government is already well known for its prolific censorship of speech, especially in online forums, as well as its general control over what its citizens consume thanks to the likes of The Great Firewall.

However there are some blow-back.

"Obtaining people's personal data needs their consent, according to China's laws and regulations, but in reality, facial recognition technologies are widely used while the public rarely knows about them".

Supermarkets, subway systems and airports already use facial recognition technology.

In November, a university professor from Zhejiang province in eastern China filed a lawsuit against a wildlife park which required using its facial recognition system to access the facility. However, increasingly, citizens seem willing to criticize how the Chinese government may exploit this data to track the population.

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