Chinese safari park sued for scanning visitors with facial recognition technology 

Despite the controversy, facial recognition technology has been expanding quickly in China.

Photo: tuchong.stock.com

An adjunct law professor is suing a wildlife safari park in Hangzhou over the latter’s deployment of facial recognition technology, arguing that the upgraded entry system would collect personal biometric information illegally, state media The Paper reported.

Guo Bing, a lecturer at Zhejiang Sci-Tech University, said to local media that the park’s new policy violates his consumer rights and those of many other people, after the zoo required him, as an annual pass cardholder, to visit the park for facial recognition information input in replacement of the former fingerprint-identification method.

According to the zoo, the update aims to speed up the entry procedure, especially during peak seasons. Furthermore, the park refused Guo’s request to get a full refund for his membership fee, citing they could only deduct the cost of his previous visits and return the rest.

From a legal standpoint, Zhou Xuliang, a lawyer at Beijing-based Guanling Law Firm, told local media that Guo, as a consumer, has the right to terminate the set-up contract and get a full refund due to the fact that the zoo added a restrictive condition without Guo’s consent.

The case, which has been accepted by Hangzhou Fuyang People’s Court on Friday, is considered to be China’s first lawsuit over facial recognition technology between a consumer and a merchant.

This draws attention to the privacy threat growing along with the quick adoption of face recognition technology. Some citizens have expressed their concerns over privacy protection in China, as biometric recognition methods have been expanding rapidly across the country.

From mobile payments to screen biometric staff clock-in system, to airport security checks and other applications, facial recognition technology has been widely applied in China, with or without people’s knowledge.

The Beijing Subway will reportedly introduce soon an AI-powered camera system to single out passengers who need to be double-checked, in an effort to “improve transport efficiency,” officials said, without detailing when and where the system will be adopted.

Earlier in September, Zao, a Chinese face-swap app applying deepfake-like facial recognition technology, went viral, KrASIA reported, but quickly faced controversy over its potential violations of user data protection. The app was later taken down temporarily for revamp, and is currently available again.