The Chinese government is known around the world for being big on citizen surveillance and monitoring. From censoring the level of information that people are privy to and filtering the news itself, the Xi administration does pretty much all it can to ensure that it keeps complete control of the people and what they are exposed to.

However, a new development in the country’s tech space is beginning to raise some eyebrows, as it could be signaling a step too far. As reported by the BBC, this month will see the Chinese government roll out a new initiative that will require people to complete a mandatory facial recognition procedure whenever they register new mobile devices or cellular data contracts.

The regulation was announced in September, and while the government claims that it will be instituting this requirement in a bid to prevent fraudulent online activities and prosecute potential offenders, it also puts a limit to the level of privacy that Chinese internet users will be able to enjoy while using mobile devices.

Censorship in China Keeps Growing

Just as it is with a lot of other countries, Chinese mobile phone users already have to show their national identification card an even have their pictures taken when signing up to use mobile devices and data plans. Now, they will need to have their faces scanned and authenticate to verify that they are the right match for the ID they provided initially.

For years now, the Chinese government has been making moves to enforce rules which are geared at ensuring easy identification for internet users. For instance, online and internet platforms were required back in 2017 to ensure that anyone who posts online content does to with their real names. However, given the fact that most people in China access the internet with their mobiles, the effects of this new regulation are particularly far-reaching.

Activism About to Get More Difficult

In the face of the Chinese government’s obsession to consolidate power and control the people, social media has been a powerful weapon. As stated earlier, the government controls most of the country’s media outlets, deciding what the people consume daily.

This allows the government to feed its citizens propaganda at will. Hoping to shed more light on several social issues and provide a balance of perspective, several activists have taken to social media to share the unfiltered news and stage dissenting moves against the government. With this new regulation in place, it might become difficult.

The government is also moving forward with its “social credit” system, which will keep track of the interactions and public conduct of all its people in a single database. People with the lowest credits will be restricted from taking the train or flying, have their internet speed throttled, and could even be restricted from attending the best schools.

While the system is currently being implemented in piecemeal, it is set to be executed nationwide by 2020.


Images are courtesy of Twitter, Shutterstock.

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