00:17 GMT +322 September 2019
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    Bye Bye Paper: What You Need to Know About WeChat's New Digital ID Cards

    CC BY-SA 2.0 / Cheon Fong Liew / WeChat cupcake
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    WeChat, a messaging app, developed by Tencent has announced its brand-new project that will turn China’s most popular social network into an official electronic personal identification system.

    Government officials from Guangzhou, the capital of the southern province of Guangdong, have launched a pilot program that creates a virtual ID card through WeChat, which serves as a digital w of the traditional state-issued paper ID, Xinhua reported.

    How Does It Work?

    The project is slated to provide access to a raft of online and offline government services as well as other services requiring authentication such as ticketing and hotel bookings. At the core of the application lies facial recognition technology.

    READ MORE: 'Seeing' World in a New Light: FB Facial Recognition Helps Visually Impaired

    The trial of the app began on December 25, and so far more than 30,000 citizens have registered to receive their WeChat ID cards a day after the launch, Xinhua added. According to the Chinese media outlet, there are two versions of the ID card: a “lightweight edition” for citizens who just need to prove their identity, and an “upgraded version” for when stricter authentication is required such as registering a business.

    Why Now?

    China’s Ministry of Public Security has already announced a mass crackdown on online platforms stealing and selling personal information such as state personal ID numbers, which has become a pressing issue in the country. Tencent Holdings Ltd. ranks well below its international peers like Alphabet Inc., Twitter Inc., and Facebook Inc. in its efforts to protect user data. Having realized the gravity of the problem, the company is introducing this update in an attempt to prevent online identity theft. If the project proves successful in Guangzhou, it will be expanded to other regions starting from January 2018.

    China's "App For Everything"

    WeChat, officially launched in 2011, has evolved into China’s biggest social network with 980 million monthly active users as of late September. While many may believe that it is an ordinary messaging app like Facebook or WhatsApp, it has a wide range of functions and platforms besides texting, video games or searching for friends.

    WeChat Pay

    The app includes online payment services, called WeChat Pay, which a couple years ago introduced a feature for distributing virtual red envelopes to match the Chinese New Year tradition of exchanging money among relatives and friends. It even allows money to be distributed equally when sent to groups.

    READ MORE: More And More Like WeChat? Facebook May Launch ‘Red Envelope' Payments Feature

    City Services And Heat Map

    WeChat has introduced another feature “City Services,” that lets users pay electricity bills, traffic fines, make a doctor’s appointment or book transportation. Another feature, the heat map, is an indispensable tool in such an overpopulated country as China as it shows crowd density.

    Enterprise WeChat

    One feature introduced for work purposes, companies and business communications, is supposed to help employees draw a line between their work and private life. The app can ask your colleagues to clock in for you to show that you were at work or to ask for time off.

    READ MORE: Millions ‘Buy’ Pictures Painted by Autistic Children in WeChat Charity Activity

    WeChat is constantly under development, adding new features to meet the growing demand for China’s digital hungry population.

    digital, ID, facial recognition, AI, China
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