Chinese city governments speak out against rising facial recognition technology use

Facial recognition technology - Biometrics

Ningbo in China’s Zhejiang province has issued three fines for the tech’s use without customer consent.

Facial recognition technology has been placed in the spotlight in China as backlash has been building from cities across the country.

The Consumer Protection Gala last month drew considerable attention to the tech’s misuse.

Several Chinese cities have been tightening their facial recognition technology restrictions as it has started being used for more mainstream purposes, including for garbage collection and for toilet paper dispensing. In the eastern province of Zhejiang, the city of Ningbo’s local market regulator recently issued fines to three property firms for “illegally acquiring customers’ facial information.”

Each of the local companies received a fine of US$38,500 (250,000 yuan). The companies were local subsidiaries of the land developers Sunac China Holdings, China Poly Group, and Greenland Holdings. According to the Ningbo Administration for Market Regulation, the three firms that received the fines had “violated the consumer protection law by collecting and using facial identity without consent,” by setting up tech at sales offices to identify a visitor as an agency client or not.

Identifying agents has been important to some residential projects for issuing discounts.

Some residential projects in the country, particularly those that aren’t selling successfully, will offer property agencies a discount in order to help to boost their customer base. That said, if a buyer visits the property and then is identified later on as an agent, the discount is rendered null.

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Therefore, if the firm uses technology to capture the visitor’s facial information, it made it possible for the offices to identify who was returning with an agent.

“We’ve found that it’s quite common in the property market. . . The devices the firms use are very accurate,” said a regulator official who was quoted by the Ningbo Evening News but who remained anonymous. “They can recognise [returning visitors] even with a facial mask on.”

Other cities are now looking into further enforcing their own regulations for the facial recognition technology use at residential compound entrances as well. In fact, the Facial recognition technology - BiometricsZhejiang province’s capital, Hangzhou, drafted a law last year that would ban property management firms from requiring that their residents register their biometrics such as facial information and fingerprints.

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