WeChat (‘Weixin’ in China) is China’s largest social media network, according to Tencent Holdings, the platform had 980 million monthly active users as of late September.
A project launched by the government of Beijing could use WeChat as the official electronic personal identification system.
A WeChat ID pilot program was launched in Guangzhou’s Nansha District, citizens in the area will soon be able to identify themselves through the social network. According to Xinhua, over 30,000 people have applied for ID cards in the 24 hours following the launch of the project.
The WeChat ID could be used to authenticate citizens to online and offline government services, it will also give them access to many other online services such as hotel registration and ticketing.
The Anonymity on WeChat is not possible, China has phased in a real-name registration requirement for mobile phone numbers since 2013, and every account is associated with a mobile phone number.
The ID programme was developed by the research institute of the Ministry of Public Security in collaboration with the Tencent’s WeChat team. Several banks in the country and many government departments have provided their support to the project.
The project aims to deter online identity theft, the system relies upon a facial recognition technology to verify applicants before their virtual ID cards get authorized.
The ID cards are available in “lightweight” format to provide a simple proof of identity while accessing services, and the “upgraded” format where more information is requested, for example, while requiring business registration.
Privacy advocates have raised concerns about the program because this public-private partnership could allow the Government to intensify it extensive surveillance and censorship activities.
(Security Affairs – China ID system, Weixin)