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Chinese court upholds face biometric data collection complaint verdict

Chinese court upholds face biometric data collection complaint verdict

China’s first legal case concerning facial recognition use reached a second-instance verdict in court this past week in favor of Guo Bing, a law professor at Zhejiang Sci-Tech University who filed a lawsuit last year. The court ordered the defendant, a wildlife park in Hangzhou, to delete biometric data it collected from the plaintiff without consent and pay $158 in compensation, CGTN reports.

The court dismissed Bing’s other claims, including allegations against park authorities to inform and issue notices related to the change of its entry system from biometric fingerprint to facial recognition.

The November decision had similar results and Bing’s legal representative said at the time that the plaintiff had hoped the court would deliver an opinion guiding the use of or limitations on facial recognition technology in general.

Bing had purchased a pass to visit a wildlife park in Hangzhou, east China’s Zhejiang Province — only accessible using fingerprints. Following Bing’s visit, the park subsequently changed biometric entry requirements to include facial recognition on entry, later asking Bing to provide such information, and refusing to issue a refund for Bing’s ticket.

The plaintiff said he was very disappointed in the verdict and that he would apply for retrial and proceed to take other legal actions.

Debating biometric data protection

The covert use of facial recognition and other biometrics within China has sparked debate in recent years. The South China Morning Post reports on the common phenomenon of data leaks and illicit marketplaces for the purchase of sensitive information.

China’s government published a draft Public Information Protection Law (PIPL) in October, currently in the final review process of the National People’s Congress. Under this new law, biometric information is considered as personal sensitive data, and must conform to certain regulations and standards of use.

Supporters of the new law suggest that companies who have been involved in the illicit collection of data could be dealt a blow, whilst those skeptical are uncertain of whether the law will in fact address privacy issues, says SCMP.

Article 29 of the proposed law defines “sensitive personal information” as anything that could cause discrimination or harm to the individual or their property, “including information on race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, individual biometric features, medical health, financial accounts, individual location tracking, etc.,” according to the translation.

Ethnicity-enabled identification use has been previously documented in China by public surveillance systems that use face biometrics, after which manufacturer Dahua was sanctioned by the United States for human rights abuses.

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