China drafts rules for facial recognition tech amid privacy complaints

Cyberspace Administration of China says tech should only be used when there is a specific purpose and protective measures in place.

Chin face recognition
China has unveiled new draft rules to oversee the management of facial recognition technology [China Daily via Reuters]

China’s cyberspace regulator said it has issued draft rules to oversee the security management of facial recognition technology in the country, following concerns raised in public about the overuse of the technology.

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said on Tuesday that facial recognition technology can only be used to process facial information when there is a specific purpose and sufficient necessity as well as with strict protective measures.

The use of the technology will also require an individual’s consent, the CAC said in a statement. It added that non-biometric identification solutions should be favoured over facial recognition in cases where such methods are equally effective.

Biometric identification, especially facial recognition, has become widespread in China. In 2020, local media reported that facial recognition was used to activate toilet roll dispensers in public toilets, which triggered public and regulatory concerns at the time.

Many Chinese courts and local governments have since ruled against and fined companies for facial recognition overuse, according to the South China Morning Post.

CAC’s draft rules state that image-capturing and personal identification devices should not be installed in hotel rooms, public bathrooms, changing rooms, toilets and other places where they may infringe on others’ privacy.

The regulator added that image-capturing devices should be installed in public places for only public safety purposes and with prominent warning signs next to them.

The draft rules come amid Beijing’s effort to tighten data regulation by issuing an array of regulations. Most notably, China introduced its first law focusing on user privacy, the Personal Information Protection Law, in 2021, in a bid to rein in companies’ overuse of user data.

Source: Reuters