In response to mounting concerns over the excessive use of facial recognition technology, China’s cyberspace regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), announced on Tuesday that it has released draft rules aimed at overseeing the security management of this technology in the country. The move comes as a response to public apprehension regarding the growing ubiquity of facial recognition and its potential implications for privacy.
According to the CAC’s statement, the draft rules stipulate that facial recognition technology can only be employed for processing facial data when a specific purpose and sufficient necessity are evident, all the while adhering to strict protective measures. Additionally, the use of this technology will necessitate the consent of the individual being recognized. The CAC also underlines that non-biometric identification solutions should be prioritized over facial recognition when they prove equally effective.
China has seen the proliferation of biometric identification, particularly facial recognition technology. Reports emerged in 2020 detailing its usage to activate toilet paper dispensers in public restrooms, sparking both public outcry and regulatory concerns at the time.
Since then, several Chinese courts and local governments have ruled against and fined companies for the overuse of facial recognition technology, signaling a growing acknowledgment of privacy implications. The South China Morning Post reported these instances.
The newly introduced draft rules by the CAC specify that image-capturing and personal identification devices must not be installed in areas such as hotel rooms, public restrooms, changing rooms, toilets, and any other spaces that could infringe upon the privacy of individuals. Furthermore, the regulator mandates that image-capturing devices should only be set up in public areas for the sole purpose of ensuring public safety and must be accompanied by conspicuous warning signs.
This initiative aligns with Beijing’s broader agenda to enhance data regulation through the implementation of a series of rules and laws. Notably, in 2021, China enacted its inaugural legislation centered around user privacy—the Personal Information Protection Law—aiming to curtail companies’ excessive utilization of user data.
As the discussion around privacy, data security, and technological advancements continues to unfold, China’s endeavor to balance innovation with safeguarding individuals’ rights remains a significant aspect of its evolving digital landscape.