In what many domestic news outlets are describing as a first, a Chinese citizen is suing a theme park over its use of biometric technology on attendees.
The park in question is a safari park in Hangzhou, which previously linked park passes to the fingerprints of pass holders, but recently moved to a new system based on facial recognition. Upon learning that his face biometrics would be collected by the park, a Zhejiang University law professor named Guo Bing initially tried to cancel his pass to get a refund; when the park refused to refund the full amount of his pass, he decided to launch a lawsuit against its collection of facial biometric data. The case has been filed with a court in Fuyang District.
It’s a notable development in a country rife with biometric surveillance, particularly that based on facial recognition. Not only is this technology routinely used by government and law enforcement agencies, but it’s also commonly used by businesses; the Hangzhou safari park is not even unique among theme parks and other tourist attractions in implementing this technology.
Guo’s case is also notable for its publicity, with multiple media outlets covering the matter, and state-run news outlet Beijing News even posting an interview with the professor, in which he explained that he filed the lawsuit because he felt that the biometric system infringed upon the privacy rights of park attendees.
Nevertheless, Guo was careful to voice support for what he framed as legitimate government uses of facial recognition, as The Guardian reports. “I think it is OK and, to some extent, necessary for government agencies, especially police departments, to implement this technology, because it helps to maintain public security,” he said in his interview. “But it’s still worth discussing when it comes to the legitimacy and legality of using the technology.”
By avoiding any direct challenges against the state surveillance apparatus, this positioning could enable the emergence of a broader discussion about the use of facial recognition in China. But, given the technology’s prevalence in a range of everyday scenarios, it remains to be seen whether such a conversation will get significant traction.
Source: The Guardian
November 4, 2019 – by Alex Perala