The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has passed a new law whereby all citizens applying for new mobile and data services are required to have their faces scanned using facial recognition technology to verify their identity.
The law, which is due to come into effect on December 1, 2019, is an upgrade to the countries real-name registration system which was established in 2013, an authentication system that requires photos and a national ID when obtaining a new mobile number.
The new facial recognition software will utilize the stored photo already on record and match them to the scanned image. Persons applying online will need to send in a brief video recording of themselves in order for the technology to verify their identity. China has claimed that it is the first country to bring in facial recognition software as part of its authentication system for mobile and data systems.
According to MIIT, the new law was the latest security measure in an effort to “safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of citizens in the cyberspace.” Furthermore, citizens are prohibited from passing on their mobile numbers to another owner and are urged to check what numbers are registered under their name.
This is the latest step in Beijing’s “cyber sovereignty” practice where the government exercises control over the internet within its own borders. Facebook and Twitter are currently blocked in China, along with a number of other Western social networks including YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has asked other countries to respect China’s practice of internet governance. The Technology Ministry insists the latest facial recognition requirement is to heighten security to everyday mobile users, some users have taken to the internet citing concern over the risks surrounding personal information leakage and a privacy invasion.
It has been reported that China has over 854 million internet users with the internet availability rate reaching 61.2 percent, according to a report released in August 2019.