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Chinese firms fined for facial recognition overuse, more city govts mull restrictions

Chinese firms fined for facial recognition overuse, more city govts mull restrictions

The city of Ningbo in China’s eastern Zhejiang Province has slapped fines on three property development companies accused of illegally collecting face biometric information from individuals.

The local market regulator there leveled a fine of 250,000 Yuan (about US$ 38,500) to the three firms saying they acted in violation of the existing consumer protection law by installing facial recognition devices at sales offices to determine who customers are, without obtaining their consent, according to a report by South China Morning Post (SCMP).

The sanctioned firms are subsidiaries of land development companies China Poly Group, Sunac China Holdings and Greenland Holdings, SCMP noted, adding that none of them immediately responded to requests for comment on the matter.

This comes as more provinces and cities in the country are planning to put in place policies that restrict the overuse of facial recognition technology in certain public places such as residential areas and commercial centers.

Already, the city of Hangzhou in the Province of Zhejiang, last year, unveiled a draft piece of legislation which bans property company owners from obliging users to register their biometrics such as fingerprints and facial scans for access to residential compounds, the Post notes. The law is expected to be decided upon by the city’s lawmakers in June.

The Province of Sichuan as well as the cities of Tianjin and Nanjing are also looking forward to introducing similar restrictions as those proposed in the draft law by Zhejiang.

The backlash against the overuse of facial recognition technology has been growing in China as some citizens feel they are over-monitored, and also because of concern about possible data leaks and privacy breaches. Facial recognition technology is widely used in the country for purposes such as the distributing of toilet paper and the collection of waste, according to a survey cited by SCMP in a different report.

Plans for the restriction of the overuse of facial recognition has a national dimension in China as a national standard which suggests the non-use of facial recognition without consent and for children aged 14 or younger, was recently released for public comment.

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