Consumers in China will have to have a scan taken of their face when signing up to new mobile services (via the BBC). The law has been brought in to help authorities verify the identities of its millions of citizens and link them to their personal internet activity.
The regulation has been apparently forced on China’s telecom operators.
The Chinese government presents the move as a user-friendly way to verify identity, but critics see it as another way to monitor people in a country famous for its authoritarian governments. The government said the new law is to "protect the legitimate rights and interest of citizens in cyberspace”, which is an uninformative explanation.
You must show photo ID in China and many other countries in order to sign a new mobile phone contract, but the company won’t have access to your photo as a data reference point. Under the new law, your face scan would be linked to your ID and phone number as another key data point.
There is an ongoing debate about face scans and facial recognition in public places in many countries as people, governments and private companies battle with data protection and misuse. The world has accepted it will be caught on CCTV every day, but facial recognition takes things into an Orwellian zone that many are uncomfortable with – the idea that a computer system could accurately track your movements, ID you, and then forward that data on to another party.
Facial scanning is more widespread in China for payment authentication on shop systems as opposed to verifying a payment card on your personal device, but the practice is coming into more criticism and it is rolled out without much explanation as to its purpose.