China Introduces Mandatory Face Scans for People Buying Mobile Phones

The rule came into effect on December 1st, to "protect" Chinese citizens' rights and security in cyberspace.

Now people buying new mobile phones and phone contracts in China will have to provide a scan of their faces.

The rule came into effect on Sunday, 1 December and is meant to "protect the legitimate rights and interest of citizens in cyberspace," according to China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

The faces of customers buying new SIM cards must now match their I.D. documents. 

It might seem like a step in the right direction along with technological advancement, however, a few privacy concerns have arisen. 

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Chinese surveillance

The new policy is part of China's desire to limit its citizens' anonymity online. So now, when consumers apply for new numbers they must provide identification as well as have photos taken of themselves.

Certain people have taken to social media and have actively voiced their concerns regarding the new rule.

Facial recognition is no new tool in China. It's been used for a while now, for instance, to survey the population. In 2017 the country had 140 million surveillance cameras across the nation to watch over its citizens. The plan is to install 400 million more cameras by 2020.

Many consumers in China have moved along with the country's facial-recognition technology without pushing back, but there are a number of people who disagree with these measures. 

Just last month, for example, an associate law professor from Zhejiang Sci-Tech University sued a wildlife park in Eastern China as it forced seasonal ticket holders to go into another lane and have their faces scanned. 

The Uighur population in China's North Western Xinjiang province have also been under close surveillance by the Chinese government who uses facial recognition technology to track the minority based on their appearance. 

Much fear is still placed on data theft, hacking and abuses by commercial companies, so facial recognition can be a positive addition. However, given some of China's reasons for using facial recognition technology are questionable to many nationals, this new rule isn't being welcomed with open arms by everyone.

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