The Chinese government announced in September that residents applying for a new mobile or internet device will have their faces scanned by telecommunications carriers. The new rules went into effect on December 1.
Chinese citizens need to scan their face before they can access internet services or get a new phone number
Chinese citizens will now have to start using facial identification in order to sign up for internet services or get a new mobile number.
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 behaviours.
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.” 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 which 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 has soared under Chinese President Xi Jinping, and thousands of new censorship and surveillance initiatives have been issued every year.
In 2014, the Xi’s government announced plans for its “social credit system,” a vast, mandatory ranking system of all of its 1.4 billion citizens. According to China, 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 in 2020. Blocking the sidewalk, 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.
Uh-oh: Silicon Valley is building a Chinese-style social credit system
In China, scoring citizens’ behavior is official government policy. U.S. companies are increasingly doing something similar, outside the law.
Have you heard about China’s social credit system? It’s a technology-enabled, surveillance-based nationwide program designed to nudge citizens toward better behavior. The ultimate goal is to “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step,” according to the Chinese government.
In place since 2014, the social credit system is a work in progress that could evolve by next year into a single, nationwide point system for all Chinese citizens, akin to a financial credit score. It aims to punish for transgressions that can include membership in or support for the Falun Gong or Tibetan Buddhism, failure to pay debts, excessive video gaming, criticizing the government, late payments, failing to sweep the sidewalk in front of your store or house, smoking or playing loud music on trains, jaywalking, and other actions deemed illegal or unacceptable by the Chinese government.
It can also award points for charitable donations or even taking one’s own parents to the doctor.
Punishments can be harsh, including bans on leaving the country, using public transportation, checking into hotels, hiring for high-visibility jobs, or acceptance of children to private schools. It can also result in slower internet connections and social stigmatization in the form of registration on a public blacklist.
China’s social credit system has been characterized in one pithy tweet as “authoritarianism, gamified.”
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