China's new stand on facial recognition

Kerem Gülen
Aug 14, 2023

China's online watchdog has shared preliminary guidelines about how facial recognition technology should be used in the country. This comes after many people expressed worries about the excessive use of this technology.

The main online authority, the Cyberspace Administration of China, stated that this technology should only be used when there's a clear reason and it's truly needed.

Also, strict safety steps must be in place. People need to give their permission before their face is recognized by technology. The authority also suggested using other ways to identify people, rather than facial recognition, when those other ways work just as well.

In China, the use of technology that identifies people through their unique physical characteristics, such as facial recognition, has become very common. In 2020, there were even reports of this technology being used to control the distribution of toilet paper in public restrooms. This drew attention and worries from both the public and regulatory officials.

Since then, various Chinese legal bodies and local governments have taken action against companies. They have ruled against them and fined them for using facial recognition too much, as reported by the South China Morning Post.

Image source: Unsplash

New preliminary guidelines from China's main online authority, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), include instructions about where this technology should and should not be used. It should not be used in private places like hotel rooms, public restrooms, changing rooms, toilets, or any other places where it might invade someone's privacy.

They also stated that these devices can only be used in public areas for keeping people safe, and there must be clear signs warning people that the technology is in use.

Protecting the digital IDs

These new rules are part of a larger effort by Beijing to better control how information is used and protected. This includes many new rules and laws.

For example, in 2021, China introduced a law, the Personal Information Protection Law, that was its first focused specifically on protecting people's privacy. This was aimed at controlling how companies use people's personal information.

The Cyberspace Administration of China's recent preliminary guidelines regarding facial recognition reflect a broader global conversation on privacy and ethical technology use. These rules, while specific to China, highlight the delicate balance that must be struck between utilizing advanced technology for convenience and maintaining the individual's right to privacy.

How can we ensure that technology serves us without overstepping its bounds, particularly in personal and sensitive areas of our lives? This question is not only pertinent to China but resonates worldwide.

It raises essential debates about the future of technology governance, individual rights, and corporate responsibility, forming a critical dialogue that invites perspectives from all stakeholders.


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