Facial Recognition sparks debate

ZHENGZHOU: People in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province, can now use the subway through facial recognition technology.
Introduced in September, facial recognition is available to passengers who link their online payment systems to the subway’s smartphone app.
However, one traveler, Feng Yi, 25, who works for a tourism company in Zhengzhou, voiced his concerns. “I feel uncomfortable, because I don’t know why the company is using my facial details, or whether they will be leaked,” he said.
“Scanning people’s faces in public places makes me feel unsafe, especially when the technology is being adopted elsewhere, such as banks, colleges and hotels.”
He also questioned the need to collect facial information, saying that when he registered online accounts, he provided his phone and identity card numbers and his fingerprints. “I can hardly refuse to use the technology, as it is a precondition or obligatory for using some apps,” he said.
Facial recognition is also being adopted in other cities. For example, Beijing Subway said last month it was testing such a system to help speed up security checks.
Heated debate on the legitimacy and ethics of using facial recognition spread on social media platforms after a face-swapping app named Zao allowed users to imitate celebrities from blockbuster movies or hit TV series through the use of artificial intelligence.
Zhao Zhanling, a legal researcher at the China University of Political Science and Law, said growing public concern over facial recognition is understandable.
“Compared with ID card and fingerprint information, facial recognition can help identify a person more accurately,” he said. “If such information is collected improperly or leaked, the risks will be considerable.”
Widespread use of the technology has heightened such concerns, because there is no law in China to regulate the use and collection of facial information, he said, suggesting that app operators, public service providers and government departments be more careful in preventing abuse of the science.
Li Ya, a lawyer from the Beijing Zhongwen Law Firm said, “The technology is no problem, but its adoption must be regulated before a special law is introduced.”
Guo Bing, an associate professor of law at Zhejiang Sci-Tech University, has the same concerns as Feng about the collection and use of personal information.
On Oct 28, Guo took the Hangzhou Safari Park to Fuyang District People’s Court in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, over the collection and use of visitors’ facial recognition details. Three days later, the court accepted the case. The litigation is believed to be the first in China involving such technology and comes as its use increases nationwide.
In April, Guo agreed to use fingerprint recognition to pay an annual fee of more than 1,000 yuan ($142) for an admission card to the park. But last month, the park told him its entry system was to be upgraded and card users had to supply facial information. Yuan Xiaoqin, the park’s brand manager, was quoted by China Central Television as saying: “Facial recognition can help a visitor enter the park in two or three seconds. Fingerprint information sometimes isn’t sensitive, especially in cases of injury or when the fingers are too dry to enable recognition.”
However, Guo disagreed and asked the park to return his payment.
“Consumers will face big risks if their facial information is leaked, used illegally or abused,” he said.
“In collecting visitors’ facial information, the park has seriously harmed their rights, and it didn’t inform me about the upgrade when I registered the card. “As a commercial business, the park will fall under suspicion of illegally collecting visitors’ personal data if it applies facial recognition technology without their permission,” he added.–Agencies

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