China Mobile, the state-owned telecom operator, is reportedly proposing the implementation of a “Digital Identity System” to monitor all local metaverse users. This initiative, if implemented, could have global implications for the regulation of metaverse technology. The proposed system would require users to provide personal data, including occupation and identifiable information, which would be stored permanently and shared with law enforcement agencies. While China Mobile argues that this is a safety measure, critics argue that it infringes upon principles of freedom and privacy. The idea has drawn comparisons to China’s social credit system, raising concerns about government control in the virtual world.
The Chinese government has a history of centralizing control and closely monitoring its citizens’ activities and financial transactions. In 2021, it banned all cryptocurrency operations and later warned of penalties and jail time for participating in crypto fundraising. However, China has shown support for a central bank digital currency (CBDC), issued by the People’s Bank of China. The country has made significant efforts to promote the adoption of its CBDC among its population. Critics, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and US presidential candidate Robert Kennedy, view CBDCs as tools of surveillance, highlighting their differences from the decentralized nature of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
The proposal to monitor metaverse identities has sparked concerns among experts and the international community. Questions are being raised about the potential implications of having Chinese authorities setting and monitoring identity protocols in the metaverse. The idea of a centralized approach to identity management in the virtual world raises broader questions about the kind of immersive environment that governments and individuals want to be a part of.
China’s push for control in the metaverse aligns with its broader efforts to centralize power and control information within its borders. As discussions continue, it remains to be seen how this proposal will be received by the global community and whether it will set a precedent for metaverse regulation worldwide.