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Law Professor Sues Chinese Amusement Park for Enforcing Facial Recognition on Visitors

Representative image of a facial recognition software at work, akin to the AFRS tool in use by Delhi Police. (Photo: Reuters)

Representative image of a facial recognition software at work, akin to the AFRS tool in use by Delhi Police. (Photo: Reuters)

Professor Guo Bing questioned the need for a safari park to collect personal data about visitors and raised concerns about its potential misuse.

A wildlife amusement park in China is facing court after a law professor sued it for using facial recognition technology on visitors.

Hangzhou safari park in the capital of China's Zhejiang province recently replaced the old system of finger-printing visitors for identification with a new facial recognition system.

The move has caused outrage in certain sections in China. So much so that Professor Guo Bing of the Zhejiang University of Sci-Tech has decided to drag the safari park to court over accusations of the park infringing upon his and others' privacy rights.

“I [filed the case] because I feel that not only my [privacy] rights are being infringed upon but those of many others,” Bing told local Chinese Media. A recording of his statements were shared by the state-run Beijing News.

After finding out that the park will be using facial recognition, Bing, who had purchased an annual pass for the park in April, demanded a refund fearing identity theft. He had been asked to update his records following the implementation of facial recognition. However, Bing refused. When the park refused to refund the money, Bing filed a civil lawsuit in a Fuying court in Hangzhou.

Bing questioned the need for a safari park to collect personal data about visitors and raised concerns about the potential misuse of data collected by the park's security software.

This is not the first time that the Chinese have raised concerns over infringement of privacy. In the last few years, Chinese establishments have increased adopted facial recognition systems to enhance security and ease of documentation.

In 2015, China implemented the new "smart tourism" initiative which urged over 270 tourist attractions in China to adopt facial recognition.

Beijing announced in October that it will be using facial recognition tools to speed up security checks in the city's overcrowded metro, using a 'credit system' to sort passengers into different channels, as per a report in AFP.

The Universal Studios amusement park under construction in Beijing recently said it will admit visitors without a ticket -- thanks to cameras that will scan their faces to determine if they paid for entry.

Earlier in april, New York Times reported that china was using facial-recognition tech to track down Uighur Muslims in the state. In the pas year, the country has received widespread criticism for its treatment of Uighur Muslim, a religious minority in China. As per reports, almost a million Uighur Mulsims are currently interred in shadowy concentration caps the northwest region of Xinjiang.

Privacy experts such as Ann Cavoukian stress on the dangers of concentrating so much data in the state's hands while also raising concerns about the accuracy of such softwares. Speaking to The Guardian, Cavoukian referred to China's widespread use facial recognition without citizens' consent as "appalling".

In 2018, the State Administration for Market Regulation in China warned against the possible safety hazards of using facial recognition in door locks. Not just China, effectiveness of using facial identity has come under question in other countries as well. Analysts in academics i the United Kingdom slammed UK police in July this year for using facial recognition software despite it being wrong almost 81 percent of the times.

Beijing-based lawyer Zhao Zhanling who works with the Beijing Zhilin Law Firm told South China Morning Post that facial recognition data was "highly sensitive" and that authorities needed to "strictly supervise" data collection as well as its use, storage and transference.

India too jumped on the facial recognition bandwagon recently with several states including Andhra Pradesh and Punjab adopting facial recognition software to fight crime in 2018. The Indian government is also in the works of building the world’s largest facial recognition system – a centralized database – accessible to police across all states of the country that would match images from the network of CCTV cameras against a database encompassing criminal records.

A biometric authentication service was also introduced on a three-month trial basis at Delhi International Airport Limited in September. The authentication services are being provided by the Portugal-based firm IdMaas (Identity Management-as-a-Service) and Vision-Box, which has raised further concerns about the safety of a particularly sensitive array of data.