Chinese hospitals are using facial recognition technology as part of a crackdown on people making doctors’ appointments and then selling them for a profit.

More than 30 hospitals in the capital Beijing are using the technology and have already identified 2,100 people who regularly appear to make appointments, but then sell them on to save customers queuing in line to see a doctor.

It is the latest application of the new technology being used in places to tighten state control over the country, home to 1.4 billion people.

The country’s markets are filled with counterfeit goods and rife with fraud and the state has been applying facial recognition wherever it can – from toilet paper distribution at public facilities to identifying those crossing roads illegally, all in real time.

Facial recognition is among technologies being used to process big data, buying habits and genetic sequencing in a bid to increase the state’s store of personal information about Chinese citizens.

The data is being fed into a “social credit” system which rewards or penalizes people based on their behavior.Anything from failure to pay taxes and fines to walking a dog without a lead could see individuals face punishments including being barred from buying plane and train tickets.

The social credit system has come under fire with human rights activists saying the system is too rigid and could unfairly label some as untrustworthy without telling them they have lost status or how they could earn it back.

Staff