Internet access is already notoriously restricted in China, but things are about to get a whole lot worse. Chinese citizens are currently forced to show their ID Card in order to get the internet installed in their house, but that identification database will soon be tightened with facial recognition technology.
Starting on December 1st, Citizens of China will be required to scan their faces before gaining access to the internet or buying a smartphone.
— TomoNews US (@TomoNewsUS) October 4, 2019
The new regulation is a part of China’s controversial social credit system, which records the actions of every citizen and scores those actions according to their compliance with Chinese laws and customs.
If a person’s credit score drops too low, they can be banned from flying or using public transit systems, have their internet access restricted, or have their children blocked from going to the best schools. Low social credit scores can also result in being fired from a job, banned from hotels, and even having pets taken away. On the other hand, high social credit scores will result in better interest rates at banks, lower energy costs and even prioritized listing on dating sites.
According to a report from the Associated Press, millions of people have already been blocked from buying airplane and train tickets due to their social credit score. In some cases, people could have their name, photo, and violations listed in LED billboards in busy city areas.
The issue with these experimental R&D AI/FRT projects is that they use real production systems and data. Realtime security footage from governmental buildings and actual police data sets used in open systems grating access to active third party mass surveillance systems in China. pic.twitter.com/ohLc7pbkuc
— Victor Gevers (@0xDUDE) October 5, 2019
According to the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, requiring citizens to submit to facial recognition in order to access the internet is intended to improve the country’s internet security and help to fight against “terrorism.” However, it is important to note that the Chinese government has labeled peaceful protesters in Hong Kong as “terrorists,” so it is likely that this measure will be used to stifle dissent as well.
The recent protests in Hong Kong may have even provoked the Chinese government to implement these measures as soon as possible, to keep news of the protests away from citizens of mainland China, especially those who may not be entirely loyal to the regime in the first place. Restricting internet access in this fashion was surely a part of the social credit system plan all along, but the timing is suspect, considering the situation that the Chinese government is dealing with in Hong Kong
While China may be the testing ground for a social credit system, governments all over the world have been considering similar measures, including Australia and Canada.
About the Author
John Vibes is an author and journalist who takes a special interest in the counter culture, and focuses solutions-oriented approaches to social problems. He is also a host of The Free Your Mind Conference and The Free Thought Project Podcast.