A Chinese law professor has won his facial recognition lawsuit against Hangzhou Safari Park. Guo Bing had previously held an annual membership to the local wildlife park, but decided to sue in late 2019 after learning that the Park had started using facial recognition instead of fingerprint recognition to identify its members.
In doing so, he argued that the Park’s new policy violated his right to privacy, since the Park was able to collect his facial biometrics without his express consent. The Hangzhou Fuyang People’s Court has agreed with that assessment, ruling that the Park acted unlawfully when it altered its identification policy without informing the other party. The Court has consequently ordered the Park to delete any facial recognition data associated with the professor, and to pay him a modest 1038 yuan (US$158) to compensate him for his troubles.
“The agreement between the two parties was to use fingerprint recognition to enter the park,” wrote the Court in an announcement posted on WeChat. “Safari Park’s collection of photos of Guo Bing and his wife exceeded the legally necessary requirements, so it was not legitimate.”
While the compensation is likely appreciated, Guo had indicated that the lawsuit was primarily about the principle rather than the payment. He told reporters that his goal was to prevent the abuse of facial recognition technology when he filed in 2019.
In that regard, the lawsuit is one of the first of its kind in China, which has one of the most extensive surveillance networks in the world and has attempted to normalize the use of facial recognition. The tech is now being used to support contact tracing efforts during the pandemic, though some of its other applications have been more invasive, most notably in the case of a controversial surveillance program in Xinjiang. The city of Suzhou, meanwhile, disclosed personal information and used surveillance footage to shame people for wearing pajamas in public.
Source: South China Morning Post
November 23, 2020 – by Eric Weiss