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China’s digital identity plan for Metaverse raises privacy alarms



China Mobile, a state-owned telecommunications company, has put forth a proposal for a digital identity system to regulate activities within the metaverse. 

However, experts are raising concerns over potential privacy violations due to data collection and its similarities with China’s social credit system.

China Mobile’s proposal suggests the implementation of a “Digital Identity System” for users in online virtual worlds, or metaverses. 

The system is designed to prevent chaos, rumors, and other disruptive activities within these digital environments. The company claims that the system could help maintain order and safety within the metaverse.

Critics of the proposal have noted striking similarities between the proposed digital identity system and China’s existing social credit system. 

The digital identity system would collect and store users’ personal data, including occupation, “identifiable signs,” and other attributes. 

The collected data would be permanently stored and shared with law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety and order of the virtual world.

Chris Kremidas-Courtney, a senior fellow at the think tank Friends of Europe in Brussels, commented, “The idea of establishing a unified digital identity system, where every individual is assigned a distinct digital ID incorporating social attributes from social media and occupation, closely resembles China’s social credit system.”

Experts have expressed concern over the potential implications of implementing such a system. The system’s similarity to the social credit system raises questions about privacy and individual freedom. 

The proposal was discussed with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), an UN-affiliated agency responsible for establishing global rules for technology. 

The ITU’s focus group on the metaverse is expected to vote on the proposal in October. 

However, concerns have been raised that the involvement of Chinese entities in the focus group could lead to the establishment of standards that resemble China’s proposed digital identity system.

Despite concerns and criticism, China’s metaverse industry is predicted to experience significant growth. Experts anticipate 40% growth in the industry in 2023. 

The metaverse, characterized by connected virtual worlds powered by virtual and augmented reality, has become an area of interest for various countries, including China, as they explore methods to regulate and police activities within these digital spaces.

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