Tencent’s WeChat to launch electronic ID cards from 2018
The southern city of Guangzhou issued China’s first digital identification card on Monday. Initially, citizens will be able to use the virtual ID for government services, such as registering a company with the commerce authority in Guangzhou. Photo: Visual China
WeChat, China’s most popular mobile application owned by tech giant Tencent, is set to launch an electronic identification card system on its platform starting next year.
Together with the government of Guangzhou, capital of the southern Guangdong province, Tencent started on Monday a pilot program that creates virtual ID card which will serve the same functions as a traditional ID card issued by the Chinese government. The program will be trialed in Guangdong and is set to roll out throughout the country from January next year, according to the Xinhua News Agency citing a local newspaper. 
Through the WeChat ID card, Chinese citizens will be able to leave their identification cards at home and use their WeChat ID card for online and offline services, including hotel registration, delivery services, ticketing and other government services. 
The launch of the electronic ID card system could be one of the biggest moves of WeChat which was rolled out by Tencent in 2011 as a mobile messaging app, and then evolved into one of China’s largest social network platforms, as well as a popular online payment platform. According to Chinese media, WeChat, or Wexin in Chinese, had had over 900 million daily users by the end of September. 
The WeChat ID program is supported by the research institute of the Ministry of Public Security and several other government departments.
In order to protect data and privacy, the system uses facial and voice recognition technology to verify applicants’ identity before they get their virtual ID cards.
According to Xinhua, the WeChat ID card can be obtained in two ways. For the “simplified version”, users can search on WeChat’s mini app for the “network certificate” (网证) and scan faces to receive the ID card. This version is used for cases in which citizens just need to prove that they are who they say they are when entering a place like an Internet bar.
Meanwhile, there is also an “upgraded version” which users can obtain by downloading the Weijing Authentication app (微警认证) developed by Guangzhou’s Nansha District police. Users log into the app to verify their information and the authenticity of their ID cards through its AI system.
The news excited many Chinese netizens as a WeChat ID card does save them a lot of trouble in daily life. But some are also worrying that once their phones are lost, it would create huge trouble for them as nowadays people put almost everything on their phones.
In fact, it is not the first time that a Chinese company has tried to develop electronic ID cards using a smartphone app.
In June 2016, Alipay, owned by China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba, teamed up with the branch of the Public Security Bureau in Wuhan, capital of central China’s Hubei province, to launch an electronic ID card service, Chinese media reported last year.
The project also aimed to promote the use of electronic ID card which could be used in situations such as hotel check-in and security inspection at railway stations and airports. But the service has not yet been expanded to the whole nation. 


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