Privacy

by Glyn Moody


Filed Under:
china, id card, identity, privacy, virtual id

Companies:
wechat



China Plans To Turn Country's Most Popular App, WeChat, Into An Official ID System

from the won't-that-be-convenient? dept

In one respect at least, China's embrace of digital technology is far deeper and arguably more advanced than that of the West. Mobile phones are not only ubiquitous, but they are routinely used for just about every kind of daily transaction, especially for those involving digital payments. At the heart of that ecosystem sits Tencent's WeChat program, which has around a billion users in China. It has evolved from a simple chat application to a complete platform running hugely popular apps that are now an essential part of everyday life for most Chinese citizens. The centrality of WeChat makes the following move, reported here by the South China Morning Post, entirely logical:

The government of Guangzhou, capital of the southern coastal province of Guangdong, started on Monday a pilot programme that creates a virtual ID card, which serves the same purpose as the traditional state-issued ID cards, through the WeChat accounts of registered users in the city's Nansha district, according to a report by state news agency Xinhua.

It said that trial will soon cover the entire province and further expand across the country from January next year.

The Wall Street Journal has some details of how people register:

Under the pilot program, funded by the National Development and Reform Commission, people create a basic identity card by scanning an image of their face into a WeChat mini program, reading aloud four numbers that pop up on the screen and entering their identification number as well as other information.

It obviously makes a lot of sense to use the WeChat platform to provide a virtual identity card. It's convenient for users who already turn to WeChat apps to handle most aspects of their lives. It means they don't need to carry around a physical ID card, but can let the software handle the necessary authentication when needed. That's also good news for businesses that want to confirm a person's identity.

But it's also an extremely powerful way for the Chinese government to implement its real-name policy for online activities, something that it has so far failed to push through. It will mean that the daily posts and transactions carried out using a mobile will not only be available to the Chinese authorities, but will be unambiguously linked to an individual once such digital IDs become obligatory for WeChat users, as they surely will. That, in its turn, will be very handy for implementing the proposed "citizen score" framework. Once this has been rolled out nationwide, it will form one of the most effective means of control available to the Chinese government, especially if combined with a similarly comprehensive plan to collect everyone's DNA.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2018 @ 11:14am

    The US needs to deploy something like this. Even if it was strictly just for ID. Social Security numbers are a disaster that no one seems to think is important enough to do anything about. I am curious what tax rebates will be like when the majority of the US populations information was leaked by Equifax.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2018 @ 11:42am

      Re:

      That will enable an advance on identity theft, that of an identity swap when the database is hacked and photos and biometrics are swapped between identities.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 4 Jan 2018 @ 11:55am

      Re:

      The US needs to deploy something like this. Even if it was strictly just for ID.

      Think about that for a moment.

      Long before the Equifax breach, false identities were being used to steal people's tax returns. The thieves needed little more than victim's Social Security numbers and publicly available information.

      It's why here in Canada you're not supposed to give out your Social Insurance Number (SIN). And yet you MUST give it out if you want to rent or co-sign an apartment, open a bank account, apply for a job, etc. etc.

      Give everyone an official ID number, and companies will demand and collect them the same way. Equifax included. And so they too will be in a scores of data breaches a year and exploited by identity thieves.

      The Chinese system has you scan in your face, but of course that too will be demanded by Equifax, employers and rental agencies, and included in the next generation of data breaches.

      It's only digging a deeper hole.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2018 @ 1:35pm

      Re:

      HAAAAAHAHAHhahah... HaHaHa.... hahahaa.. aa.. aa.. ha...
      gasp
      giggle
      HAHAHAHAHAHA....

      *wipes tear

      "strictly just for ID"? Surely, you jest.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    An Onymous Coward (profile), 4 Jan 2018 @ 12:11pm

    In one respect at least, China's embrace of digital technology is far deeper and arguably more advanced than that of the West.

    Once this has been rolled out nationwide, it will form one of the most effective means of control available to the Chinese government, especially if combined with a similarly comprehensive plan to collect everyone's DNA.

    I'm having a hard time reconciling these two statements. Oppressive control == more advanced?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 4 Jan 2018 @ 12:19pm

      Re:

      Sure. "More advanced" is not the same as "less evil" or "less oppressive. A smart bomb is more advanced than a dumb bomb, but that does nothing for the well-being of the target.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2018 @ 1:33pm

    Think they watched The Circle and said holy shit what a great idea!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2018 @ 2:47pm

    1984

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2018 @ 3:46pm

    So one would be forced into the purchase of and monthly fees for a cell phone?

    If this is the case, then would it be illegal to not have said cell phone on your person at all times?

    What's next? Chip implant? I read that implants have been linked to an increase in cancer around the device. Sweet! What a good idea.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Châu, 4 Jan 2018 @ 6:34pm

    Citizenship Test

    If person want citizenship, if person smart enough for hack this system and put their self in, they have citizenship?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Daydream, 4 Jan 2018 @ 7:35pm

    I foresee the Facebook problem.

    If someone is barred from WeChat for whatever reason (not using a real name, having unacceptable views, etc), then it could make it extremely difficult for them to shop, verify their identity, and otherwise lead a normal life.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2018 @ 9:16pm

      Re: I foresee the Facebook problem.

      You're catching on.
      These people are despicable, no doubt.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Sean (profile), 5 Jan 2018 @ 9:30am

      Re: I foresee the Facebook problem.

      I use WeChat often. Perhaps a person gets banned from the components of WeChat where violations of terms occurred, but that person is not banned from the ID portion of WeChat. That could be easy to implement.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Matthew A. Sawtell, 8 Jan 2018 @ 7:16am

    Hm... a virtual ID based on WeChat? Sorry, but...

    ... I can personally attest that is a crapshoot, given how my ID was pwned.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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