A state court in China has reaffirmed a ruling that penalizes a private company for its collection of biometric data, but questions remain about the fundamental issues involved in the case.
The lawsuit was initially settled in November. Law professor Guo Bing had sued Hangzhou Safari Park over its use of facial recognition to identify guests, which he argued amounted to a violation of his privacy rights. The Hangzhou Fuyang People’s Court ruled in his favor, ordering the Safari Park to delete Guo’s face biometrics data and to pay him 1038 yuan, or about $158, in compensation.
Hangzhou Safari Park appealed the decision. So did Guo, as the court had not actually identified the Safari Park’s collection of biometric data as fraud, nor did it force the park to refund him for his annual pass.
Now, as the South China Morning Post reports, the Hangzhou court has reaffirmed its judgment in a final ruling, and taken the additional step of ordering the Safari Park to delete Guo’s fingerprint biometrics data, which had been collected prior to its implementation of a face scanning system. But the court still hasn’t made a formal judgment about whether Hangzhou Safari Park was at fault in refusing admission to customers who did not submit to face scans, and Guo has suggested in an interview with the Southern Metropolis Daily that he might file for a retrial on that point.
Nevertheless, the lawsuit does seem to have made an impact on the legal landscape. After its initial settlement, China’s Legislative Affairs Commission proposed a Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL) and a Data Security Law. And the state-run People’s Daily media outlet said this latest ruling means that Chinese citizens can “bravely say no to facial recognition”.
That, however, is an exaggeration, to put it mildly. China has one of the most expansive biometric state surveillance apparatuses in the world, and facial recognition is used widely across the private sector. Guo’s lawsuit has helped to raise important questions about this state of affairs, but the final ruling has done little to answer them.
Source: South China Morning Post
April 13, 2021 – by Alex Perala