Telecom operators will collect face scans when new phone users are registered at offline outlets starting Sunday, according to the country's information technology authority. It outlined that telecom operators are required to deploy "artificial intelligence and other technical methods" to match the identity of an individual before the SIM card is awarded to them.
The Agence France-Presse news agency cited a source from the state-owned telecoms giant China Unicom as saying the "portrait matching" requirement would mean that people registering a new phone number would have to record themselves turning their head and blinking.
The new rule was announced by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in September to safeguard "the legitimate rights and interests of citizens online".
The notice read: 'In next steps, our ministry will continue to increase supervision and inspection. and strictly promote the management of real-name registration for phone users'.
Details: The rule ensures that internet personas are tied to real identities as online platforms typically require users to register their phone numbers when signing up for services requiring real-name verification.
But the move to leverage AI comes as facial recognition technology gains traction across China where the tech is used for everything from supermarket checkouts to surveillance.
Some social media users voiced concerns their biometric data could be leaked or sold.
"Control, and then more control", posted another.
Researchers have previously warned of the privacy risks associated with gathering facial recognition data but consumers have widely embraced the technology. Social media firms were forced to roll out real-name registration nearly a decade ago.
Last month, growing suspicion about facial recognition prompted one of China's first lawsuits over the issue.
In early November, a Chinese professor filed a claim against a safari park in Hangzhou, eastern Zhejiang province for requiring face scans for entry, according to the local court.