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The Chinese government will impose laws demanding citizens to scan their face when registering with mobile phone services.
BBC News reports how the law was announced in September 2019, and will come into effect December 8th. A person signing up for a mobile or mobile data contract must not just show their national identification card and have their photo taken, but also utilize facial scanning to ensure a match between the person and the ID.
Despite the government reportedly claiming it wishes to “protect the legitimate rights and interest of citizens in cyberspace,” the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology stated it was to “strengthen” systems to identify mobile phone users. As most Chinese internet users reportedly use their mobile phones to access the internet, the new laws would make it easier for authorities to find someone looking up something forbidden under Chinese law.
The news comes after a viral video spread online, allegedly showing a Chinese man being interrogated by Chinese authorities. The man is restrained in a cage-like chair, while the police ask him about comments he made in a private social media group (complaining about the Chinese police confiscating motorbikes). The man repeatedly insists he was drunk at the time, and begs “Uncle Police” for forgiveness.
The new law is similar to another that came into effect on December 1st, where users must verify their identity with ID and a facial scan when signing up for an internet connection, as part of the “Social Credit” system. This system seeks to incentivize the population into being “good citizens” with various perks, while those who act “poorly” lose access to top schools and travel permits. Some fear a similar system is coming to the west.
All of the above combined with a new law in 2017 (insisting internet platforms must verify a user’s identity before posting content online), and it means it is much harder for Chinese users to seek information not banned by the government, or speak freely online.
In earlier news, the Chinese government has also implemented limits on how long Chinese teens and children play video games.