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China pushes standards for face biometrics and plenty more

China pushes standards for face biometrics and plenty more

China’s national government has released draft standards, aimed at domestic firms, for securing facial recognition data. Beijing has invited public comment of the proposed rules.

The entire proposal is not yet available in English, but compliance vendor OneTrust DataGuidance has summarized it. The document outlines “basic” safe handling and biometric management practices, according to the firm.

It pushes recommendations for the collecting, using, storing, sharing and public disclosing of facial recognition data. And the proposed standard is not an isolated effort by Beijing. The government is increasingly active in so-called private governance of technology.

A key requirement states that face biometrics gathered or generated in China be stored only in China. The standard-making is being done by the National Information Security Standardization Technical Committee of China, or TC260.

General specifications in China for facial recognition date back to at least 2016.

In 2018, the country published a specification for securing data generally. It reads like a broader version of the face biometrics proposal.

And this month, TC260 published four proposed cybersecurity standards, also for public review.

As the world’s most prolific user of biometric surveillance, it makes sense that the Chinese government would want to organize the chaotic process of technology innovation. Of course, setting standards that favor Chinese system makers is no small prize.

And all the biometric products exported from China could help convince the world to accept Beijing’s conservative view on personal privacy, making its documented domestic excesses in this regard more palatable.

Still, as the world’s largest autocratic nation, one that has standardized every aspect of its culture, commerce and society, it might seem contradictory. China’s leading with products, deployments and surging exports would seem to argue for a centralized, ‘our belt and road or no belt and road’ stance.

Last month, an article published by Elsevier reported that China is playing a growing role in private governance — in this case, promulgating proposed technology standards. The author examines all of AI development.

The nation’s Communist Party has long since rejected its previous dogma about the evil of capitalist economies, so it is possible that political leaders accept that central control will slay the golden AI goose.

On the other hand, rare is the large player in AI that does not owe its success to the party’s largesse.

Regardless, China is moving to standardize the strategic facial recognition market to suit its own purposes while developed economies ignore attempts to create their own standards.

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