China is well known for using technology to monitor and control its citizens. As we have reported several times, the country cares little about its people’s privacy, including tracking “breed ready” women.
Now the communist government is going to require facial scans for anyone wanting to use a cell phone. The BBC notes, the new law took effect on December 1. In addition to presenting their national ID card, cellphone customers signing up for service will have to submit to a face scan to “verify” their identity.
The government says it will be used to "protect the legitimate rights and interest of citizens in cyberspace [and] reduce internet fraud."
While it sounds like a benefit to cell phone users, with China’s track record, there is little doubt that the government will use it to identify dissidents. The Hong Kong protesters are a prime example of people that the People’s Republic would like to silence.
Police in China began using sunglasses with facial recognition capabilities last year. The government also uses the tech for geofencing. Bloomberg reported that in 2018, the western region of Xinjiang was a testbed for a facial recognition system that alerted authorities if citizens, a majority of which are Muslim, stepped more than 300 meters out of a designated “safe zone.”
The potential to add the biometric data to currently held databases and linking them to individuals identities is a distinct concern.
The law comes just as state-run tech firms like China Telecom, ZTE, and Dahua have submitted a proposal to the UN to adopt new facial recognition standards. The drafted plan includes provisions to allow “for the storage of facial features, skin color, birthmarks, scars, and other distinctive features in a database.”