New rule links facial recognition with access to SIM cards . . .
According to a new rule in China that became effective yesterday, all new mobile phone users must submit to a facial recognition scan to get a SIM card. China’s Ministry of Industry and Information announced that the objective is to “protect the legitimate rights and interest of citizens in cyberspace.” China also issued other new rules on Friday that will come into force in January to criminalize the use of artificial intelligence or virtual reality technology to create ‘fake news’ audio and video tracks.
Privacy vs protection . . .
Human rights advocates portray the new measures as another milestone towards the consolidation of an ‘Orwellian’ surveillance state in China, an expansion of the current situation in Xinjiang where Muslim minorities are under tight watch and close to a million are in detention. Chinese social media users complained that the new rule compromises their freedom and privacy, especially in the absence of laws to protect privacy. Other media users, however, praised the new rules as appropriate measures to protect citizens from crimes such as identity theft and phone scams. The Chinese state views the new measure as a way of forestalling the resale of SIM cards to people engaged in either terrorist activities or cybersecurity violations.
Shaping international standards . . .
Chinese companies such as ZTE, Dahua, and China Telecom are actively shaping new facial recognition and surveillance standards at the UN International Telecommunications Union (ITU). As China is selling its technologies to many of the 196 ITU member states, including developing nations in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, there is concern that by shaping the regulatory environment, China may be opening the door for technologies that maximize state surveillance and compromises citizen privacy. Canada and other nations should be paying attention to the ITU meetings, where, according to the Financial Times, there are virtually no human rights, consumer protection, or data protection experts present, and also push for the participation of civil society and consumer protection groups in these meetings.
- Al Jazeera: China criminalizes 'fake news' created with AI, bots
- Financial Times: Chinese tech groups shaping UN facial recognition standards
- The Guardian: China brings in mandatory facial recognition for mobile phone users