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China continues facial recognition push with mobile purchases

China has unveiled mandatory facial recognition scans for mobile users amid increased adoption of the technology across the country, including for ticketing.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced the move in a notice to telecom operators in September stating that it would “protect the legitimate rights and interest of citizens in cyberspace.”

The notice also said that “artificial intelligence and other technical methods” should be used to match the faces of customers buying new SIM cards with their identity documents.

The move, which came into effect yesterday (Sunday), is part of a broader push by the Chinese government to limit people’s ability to stay anonymous online, though many citizens and privacy rights activists believe the face-scan policy is a step too far.

China already uses the controversial technology to survey its population, and its continued implementation has sparked debate.

Facial-recognition is used for a wide array of services in China, with one example of its recent implementation in attraction ticketing, which led to a lawsuit. Guo Bing, a university law professor at Zhejiang Sci-tech University, sued wildlife park Hangzhou Safari Park for an alleged breach of contract after switching from a fingerprint-based entry system to one that uses facial recognition.

He was reportedly concerned that his data would be used to “steal” his identity, and, when the park refused the refund request, Guo filed a civil lawsuit at a district court in Fuying, Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province.