A new rule came into effect on Sunday that will require face scans of customers signing up for new mobile plans in China. China’s industry and information technology ministry in September issued a notice on “safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of citizens online”, which laid out rules for enforcing real-name registration. Telecom operators will have to use “artificial intelligence and other technical means” to verify people’s identities when they take a new phone number.
A China Unicom customer service representative told AFP that the December 1 “portrait matching” requirement means customers registering for a new phone number may have to record themselves turning their head and blinking.
“In the next steps, our ministry will continue to…increase supervision and inspection…and strictly promote the management of real-name registration for phone users,” said the September notice.
Facial-recognition technology is used for a wide array of services in China and last month Guo Bing, an associate law professor at Zhejiang Sci-Tech University, sued Hangzhou Safari Park in eastern China because it forced seasonal ticket holders to go through a facial-recognition lane instead of its previous policy of scanning fingerprints. Also, in 2012, Chinese social media site Weibo was forced to roll out real-name registration.