This past Sunday, AFP reported that China moved forward with a plan to require telecom operators to collect face scans when they register new phone users at offline outlets according to a report from the country’s information technology ministry.
China’s move to carry out facial scans is part of its campaign to strengthen its cyberspace controls.
In September, China’s industry and information technology ministry released a notice on “safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of citizens online”, which set rules for enforcing real-name registration.
The notice recommended that telecom operators use “artificial intelligence and other technical means” to confirm people’s identities when they acquire a new phone number.
A China Unicom customer service representative told AFP that the December 1 “portrait matching” requirement would make customers registering for a new phone number have to record themselves blinking and turning their head in order to verify their identity.
“In next steps, our ministry will continue to…increase supervision and inspection…and strictly promote the management of real-name registration for phone users,” the September notice stated.
Since 2013, the Chinese government has advocated for real-name registration for phone users. In other words, ID cards would be linked to new phone numbers. Now, however, the Chinese government is pivoting towards AI as facial recognition gains popularity across China where the technology is used in a broad range of activities ranging from supermarket checkouts to surveillance.
Chinese social media users had a mixed reaction towards the December 1 facial verification notice. Many expressed concerns that their biometric data could be leaked or sold.
“This is a bit too much,” one user posted under an article about China’s new rules on the Twitter knock-off Weibo.
“Control, and then more control,” another user posted.
Although researchers are worried about the privacy risks that gathering facial recognition data entails, Chinese consumers have largely accepted the technology.
However, China witnessed one of its first lawsuits on facial recognition last month.
In early November, a Chinese professor sued a safari park in Hangzhou for mandating face scans before entering the venue, according to the local court.
Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, China has taken a more authoritarian turn that is reminiscent of the Maoist era.
With 21st century technology at their disposal, China is pushing the limits of hi-tech authoritarianism.
Such displays of government overreach could likely be exported to the West if U.S. companies and elected officials don’t take a stand against China and re-assert Western-style civil liberties.
Democrats Introduce Expanded Background Check Legislation
Democrats are going to implement a background check which targets “extremism.”
Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy and California Congressman Mike Thompson brought forward legislation on March 2, 2021 that aims to broaden the federal background check system on firearms sales, according to a report by The Hill.
Under The Background Check Expansion Act, gun sales and purchases between all unlicensed sellers and buyers would be subject to a mandatory background check. The background checks would not be applicable for law enforcement officers, lending out firearms for the purpose of hunting, temporary transfers for self-defense, or family members gifting a firearm.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and 43 Senate Democrats have co-sponsored this bill. Thompson, who is the chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, reintroduced this legislation in the U.S. House
“For years, the bipartisan House-passed background checks bill languished in the Senate under Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. Now, with Senate Democrats in the Majority, we have the opportunity to act on this overwhelmingly popular, lifesaving legislation to protect American communities,” Schumer declared in a press release.
According to a CBS News report, President Joe Biden has repeatedly called on Congress to pass stiffer gun control laws. This gun control bill will not pass so easily given how it will need 10 Republican senators to vote in favor of it.
Against the backdrop of the January 6 storming of the Capitol, such a background check will likely feature provisions that target so-called “extremists.” The ruling class has routinely lumped average gun owners with domestic extremists and will most certainly use recent events to justify encroachments on people’s right to bear arms.
Biden is a veteran of the gun control movement, as evidenced by his sponsorship of the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 and the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban. With Democrats in control of all branches of the federal government, they will certainly move to pass gun control. However, their success is not guaranteed due to moderate Democrats like Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema and West Virginia Joe Manchin not being completely receptive to radical gun control that could alienate them from their more right-wing constituents.
Nevertheless, the Left has shown that it’s willing to act regardless of the political context. Keeping this in mind, gun owners must be ready to beat back any kind of gun control coming from D.C. Such fights will allow the Right to rebuild its forces and make a splash in the 2022 midterms and the 2024 presidential race.
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