People in China will need to undergo a facial recognition scan when buying new SIM cards, according to rules introduced on Sunday, as the country seeks to tackle telecommunications fraud and improve cybersecurity.

Why it matters: Facial recognition is ubiquitous in China, with applications ranging from payments to public security.

  • Nevertheless, the technology’s increased presence has been met with pushback as some question whether it is being overused.
  • In November, a university professor from Zhejiang province in eastern China filed a lawsuit against a wildlife park which required using its facial recognition system to access the facility.
  • The measure further limits online anonymity under China’s real-name verification system by implementing additional identification checks.

Details: The rule ensures that internet personas are tied to real identities as online platforms typically require users to register their phone numbers when signing up for services requiring real-name verification.

  • China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) announced the rule in September, requiring enforcement of the new measure on Dec. 1.
  • The move aims to prevent SIM card resales and to crack down on telecommunication fraud, as well as improve cybersecurity and anti-terrorism campaigns, according to MIIT.
  • Previously, prospective mobile service buyers were only required to present their identity cards when registering for new SIM cards.

Sensetime-led consortium to set up standards for facial recognition tech

Context: China last month set up a working group for facial recognition standards that aims to assuage concerns over data security issues surrounding the technology.

  • The group is led by artificial intelligence startup Sensetime, which the US has blacklisted along with several others over their alleged complicity in human rights violations in China.
  • Sensetime said in a statement that the group would also participate in international standard-setting.
  • Meanwhile, companies including surveillance equipment manufacturer Dahua Technology, China Telecom, and ZTE have been proposing new international standards for facial recognition, video monitoring, and surveillance at the United Nation, the Financial Times reported.

Christopher Udemans is TechNode's former Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covered Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, cleantech, and cybersecurity.

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