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Chinese official says facial recognition in hotels is hurting tourism

Proposal recommends a cooldown on FRT to address complaints and prioritize privacy
Chinese official says facial recognition in hotels is hurting tourism
 

A top Chinese tourism official wants the country’s hospitality industry to pull back on facial recognition and prioritize the privacy of travelers, according to a report in the South China Morning Post.

Most hotels, hostels and bed and breakfasts in China now perform biometric facial scans as part of the check-in process. And yet, “there are no specific laws, administrative regulations, or formal written departmental rules that mandate the installation of facial recognition devices in hotels.”

So says Dai Bin, who is president of the China Tourism Academy and a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a senior political advisory body for the Chinese Communist Party. He cites complaints from tourists as evidence that the sector’s embrace of facial recognition has overshot legal boundaries for purposeful use.

“Local legislation, government regulations, and departmental rules must not exceed the scope defined by the law,” says Dai, in a formal proposal to the government. “No local authority or department can introduce restrictions on citizens’ rights to travel, tourism, and consumption without proper legal basis and formal authorization.”

There are draft rules afoot, released in August by the Cyberspace Administration of China, which say that facial recognition must only be used “where there is a specific purpose and clear necessity, and strict protective measures are implemented.” However, with the technology more widely and cheaply available than ever, enforcement could be a challenge, especially as facial recognition continues to proliferate across sectors.

The draft rules are aimed at hotels and banks, but also target the misuse of facial recognition in transport facilities, sports venues, museums, libraries and other public facilities – a good indication of how embedded the use of face biometrics has become in Chinese society, with deployments in resorts, theme parks, airports and crowded tourist sites.

Dai’s proposal requests an investigation into how security agencies mandate and manage facial recognition for hotel operators, and a recommendation to factor in the potential increased cost and reduction in quality of service that can result from such rules.

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