Surveillance State: China Mandates Facial Recognition Scans To Obtain Mobile Phone Service  Representative image. (Pixabay/3dman_eu)

Under a new policy that came in to effect this Sunday (Nov1), Chinese citizens will have to undergo mandatory facial recognition scans in order to obtain new mobile phone services , BBC reported. The move will further enhance the surveillance capability of the Chinese state.

All new users signing up for mobile service with China’s telecommunications providers, including China Mobile Ltd., China Telecom Corp., and China Unicom, will have to complete mandatory facial recognition.

Under the existing rules for signing up for new mobile or mobile data contracts, Chinese are already required to show their national identification card and have their photos taken. But now, they will to go through the addition steps of getting their faces scanned in order to verify that they are a genuine match for the ID provided.

Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in its announcement of the policy that the move would prevent telephone fraud and illegal transfer of SIM cards.

China has for years been attempting to enforce rules to ensure that everyone using the internet does so under their "real-name" identities. Under a rule enacted in 2017, internet platforms are mandated to verify a user's true identity before letting them post online content.

Even as early as 2017, China had set up 170 million CCTV cameras in place across the country with an avowed goal of installing an estimated 400 million new ones by 2020. China also rolle dout a "social credit" system to keep score of the conduct and public interactions of all its citizens in one database.

China’s vast survelliance capabilities build on the extensive use of facial recognition software has come under severe criticism after several reports that the technology is being leveraged tostiffle dissidents and perpetrate human rights abuses, particularly in the detention of Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region.

In October this year, US announced that it was blocking a group of leading Chinese technology companies from buying US-made goods on the grounds of complicity in perpetrating human rights abuses in Xinjiang province of China.

The expanded blacklist released by US Commerce Department includes 20 local public security bureaus in Xinjiang and eight technology majors, including Hikvision and Zhejiang Dahua Technology, two of the world’s largest manufacturers of video surveillance products.

The list also includes leaders in facial recognition technology, SenseTime Group and Megvii Technology, as well as other companies that specialise in voice recognition and data – iFlytek, Xiamen Meiya Pico Information and Yixin Science and Technology.

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