Another day, another service that mandates facial recognition for users. Remember Beijing subway’s plan
to use facial recognition cameras at metro stations during rush hours? Well, it appears Chinese telecom carriers have followed suit.
As of Sunday 1 December, to register for a new mobile phone number in China will require users to have their faces scanned, according to TechNode.
China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said the policy helps enforce China's anti-terrorism and cybersecurity laws and fight against fraud, Forbes reports. South China Morning Post also cited MIIT, mentioning that the new measure could prevent the resale of SIM cards and protect people from identity theft.
However, online commenters said it seems like just yet another way to tighten surveillance, as many services online are bound to phone numbers, which already makes users traceable. Previously, users only needed to show their ID or passport to register a new SIM.
China is not the first one to introduce facial recognition for SIM registrations. Bangkok has required either a fingerprint or facial scan for new SIMs since 2017, according to The Straits Times. Other countries that use biometric data for SIM card registration include Bangladesh, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
So there you have it, folks. Whether the new policy is to prevent fraud or is more about surveillance, perhaps time will tell.