How China's first facial recognition lawsuit turned out

How China's first facial recognition lawsuit turned out

For the first time a court has enshrined the right of citizens to request the deletion of personal data collected by a private individual with biometric tools

(Photo: Ian Waldie / Getty Images) A ​​Chinese court has ruled in favor by Guo Bing, a lawyer who sued a zoo in Hangzhou for the misuse of biometric facial recognition technologies. Begun in 2019, it is the first lawsuit to take place in China on this issue and, for the first time, establishes the right of citizens to request the deletion of their data.

The lawsuit originated from the change in systems of access to the Hangzhou Safari park. Professor Guo, a frequent visitor to the zoo, had an annual subscription based on fingerprint recognition. However, over the course of the year, the facility switched to a new access system based on facial recognition, communicating to its customers that they would have to use the new system to access the park.

Guo, concerned about the installation of such an invasive technology, he is unable to access the facility with his old subscription, has requested the termination of the agreement, the cancellation of his personal data and the full refund. When the zoo refused the refund, Guo sued him for violating contractual terms. "The purpose of the lawsuit is not reimbursement - he declared at the beginning of the lawsuit to the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post - but to fight the abuse of facial recognition technologies".

Last November the court had already ordered the zoo to reimburse Guo and delete his biometric data. The verdict, brought on appeal by both the zoo and Guo, was confirmed on April 9 and the court also ordered the zoo to delete Guo's fingerprint data, collected prior to the installation of the facial recognition cameras. . Despite this, reports the South China Morning Post, Guo would like to open a retrial, because the court did not rule on the zoo's decision not to admit customers who refuse to provide their biometric data. In this way the court would not have taken into consideration the focal point of the case, that is, whether or not it could be considered necessary to request facial recognition to enter a zoo.

According to the experts of the specialized journal Findbiometrics, the ruling it seems to have had some impact on the Chinese legislative level. After the ruling, the Legislative Commission of the Chinese People's Congress proposed a new law on the protection of personal data and another on data security. China still lacks an adequate regulatory framework on the protection of personal data, despite having one of the most pervasive biometric surveillance devices in the world, both in the public and in the private sector.

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