WeChat now creating China’s official electronic ID system

December 27, 2017 16:49
WeChat, the largest social media network in China, has launched a WeChat ID pilot program in the country. Photo: CNSA

WeChat, the largest social media network in China, has launched a WeChat ID pilot program with the government in Guangzhou’s Nansha District, the official Xinhua News Agency reports.

The government of Guangzhou announced on Monday that it will soon enable citizens to identify themselves through WeChat. The virtual ID card, which serves the same purpose as the traditional state-issued ID card, can be used for online and offline government services, hotel registration, delivery services, ticketing and other scenarios that require real name authentication.

The national-scale identity authentication service aims to prevent online identity forgery, as it can use facial recognition technology to verify applicants before their virtual ID cards get authorized.

A day after its launch on Dec. 25, over 30,000 citizens have registered to receive their WeChat ID cards, Xinhua said, citing the government statement.

The trial is set to extend to the entire Guangdong province and other regions from January next year. The new WeChat ID card project was co-developed by the research institute of the Ministry of Public Security and Tencent’s WeChat team, and supported by various banks and several other government departments.

According to Xinhua’s report, WeChat’s ID card can be obtained in two ways. The “lightweight edition” is suitable for cases in which citizens just need to prove the holder’s identity. The “upgraded version” is used when stricter authentication is required such as in business registration.

In the first version, users can search WeChat mini apps for the “Network certificate” app, and scan their faces to receive their ID card. The second version will require logging into a secure terminal through the Weijing Authentication app developed by Guangzhou’s Nansha District police.

The app will automatically verify users’ information and the authenticity of their ID cards through its own AI system, according to local media.

Shenzhen-based Tencent has estimated that its mobile app WeChat, also called "Weixin" on the mainland, recorded 980 million monthly active users in the quarter to Sept. 30.

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