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China demands face recognition for new cell phone contract

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China demands face recognition for new cell phone contract

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Chinese will have to scan their faces before hiring a serice with mobile operators (Photo: Pixabay)

From this Sunday, all Chinese who want to contract a service with mobile operators will have to deliver, in addition to the identification document copy, the scan of their faces. The move, advocated by Beijing as a way to strengthen security, is criticized for privacy and raises questions about state surveillance policies.

The new rule was announced in September by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, but came into force only today (01/12). Until then, new contracts with operators required only a copy of the ID card. With facial scanning, operators will be able to ensure that the contractor is really the bearer of the identity presented.

The government justifies the measure as a way of "protecting the legitimate rights and interests of citizens in cyberspace." Thus, Beijing claims, it will be possible to curb the resale of SIM cards and protect the rights of people who have lost or stolen their identity cards, documents that could be used by third parties to commit fraud in their names.

For Lao Dongyan, professor of law at Tsinghua University, one of the concerns about the new regulation is the absence of laws on the use of facial recognition technologies, especially in the penal code. According to the expert, under Chinese law consent is required for the collection of personal data, but in practice this is not the case.

"The protection of personal data in criminal law is not enough," Lao said in an interview with the South China Morning Post. Most of the time, we do not know that our data is being collected and the storage and use of this data does not follow legal requirements. "Misuse of legally collected data can be a major threat as we have no regulations on misuse in criminal law," Lao said.

The lack of criminal laws has been criticized even by the state press, the voice of the Chinese government. On Saturday, state broadcaster CCTV released a report showing that many Chinese applications collect face biometric data without users' consent. And it revealed a case of selling more than 5,000 faces of data for just 10 yuan each, around $ 6. The Communist Party's People's Daily published an editorial defending the right of people to refuse to provide scans. Facials.

Jeffrey Ding, who researches Chinese artificial intelligence technologies at Oxford University, understands that the Chinese government's motives are to end anonymity in mobile telephony and internet access, strengthen cyber security and reduce online fraud. But beyond that, there is the interest of tracking the population.

"It's connected to a very centralized impulse to try to keep control over everyone, or at least that's the ambition," Jeffrey told the BBC.

The Chinese government has long tried to end internet anonymity, and control over mobile operators may be the best option. Of the 1.4 billion Chinese, 829 million are connected to the internet, of which 817 million are mobile, almost four times the size of the Brazilian population.

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