Over the past few years, China has become increasingly focused on linking digital identities to people in the real world. During much of this time, privacy has become a secondary concern, one that the Chinese government seems to have no problem ignoring. Now the country has implimented a new law that requires citizens to submit a facial scan when they sign up for cellular service.
Until now, citizens typically had to provide their national ID cards, but as of December 1st, they now have to undergo a facial scan or they will not be able to get wireless service. According to the Chinese government, the move aims to reduce fraud by verifying a person’s identity. However, many commentators believe that this is just another way for the government to track people.
In recent years, the Chinese government has been using facial ID technology to track ethnic minorities and dissenters. With the implementation of facial scans for phone services, many experts believe that the government will use this information to further suppress and track dissenters and ethnic minorities.
However, it’s currently unclear as to whether China will keep these facial scans after the verification process. Regardless of whether these facial scans will be used for surveillance, it poses a risk to consumers in a few other ways. Perhaps the most notable is that these scans may become prime targets for hackers looking to commit fraud.
There has been mounting pressure against such facial scans across the country. Recently, the Chinese government attempted to use facial scan technology to monitor student attendance at universities. After some backlash, this procedure was toned down significantly. However, it looks unlikely that this will be the case here, especially since it means that the Chinese government could use the facial scans to stifle political opposition.