Briefing

In China, getting a cellphone means registering your face

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Regulations now compel Chinese telecom carriers to scan the faces of customers registering new mobile phone services, a move the government said will help reduce fraud. (Reuters)

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Talking point: Millions more Chinese citizens will become data points in the country’s massive facial recognition database, a key part of the government’s surveillance strategy. Already, the country has harnessed AI and big data (not to mention 200 million cameras) to become what has been called the “world’s largest surveillance state”—while also reportedly helping shape the UN’s standards governing facial recognition technology. Next year, the country will fully roll out its mandatory social credit system, through which citizens can be punished for social faux pas like bad driving by having their internet throttled and their children denied access to good schools. The initiatives have led to leaks. The state-run People’s Daily newspaper reported finding sites hawking bundles of facial recognition data of over 5,000 people for $1.89.