Hangzhou may ban mandatory collection of facial recognition scans in residential communities, marking China’s first

▲A visitor tries facial recognition payment in a smart store in Wuzhen Town of Tongxiang, east China’s Zhejiang Province, Nov. 6, 2018. (Xinhua/Huang Zongzhi)

The East China city of Hangzhou may ban property management companies from requiring residents to provide biometric data such as fingerprints or facial recognition scans amid concerns over potential data leaks and the possible infringement of personal privacy. 

A draft law has been submitted to the Standing Committee of the 13th Hangzhou People’s Congress of East China’s Zhejiang Province. 

If passed, the law would be China’s first on the use of facial recognition in residential communities. Analysts believe Hangzhou’s move will serve as an inspiration to other cities. 

Facial recognition equipment is widely installed on gates in some residential communities in China for convenience and security. But it has also stirred concerns on the risk of personal information leaks and illegal usage. 

A Hangzhou resident surnamed Zhu told the Global Times that she knows many people who don’t want their facial information to be collected this way.

The Hangzhou government began to solicit public opinion on the draft in September. 

Guo Bing, associate professor of law at Zhejiang Sci-Tech University, who has been promoting the draft, told the Global Times that leaks of personal information by property service staff have happened frequently in recent years. 

“The previous property management regulation of Hangzhou didn’t even refer to the protection of personal information. Since Hangzhou aims to become the No.1 city in digital governance, the authorities have to respond to the most controversial issue which is facial recognition. I expect it can serve as an inspiration to other parts of the country,” Guo said. 

Regulations covering property management and the protection of personal information have also been worked out in other parts of China. But none of these rules specifically cover biometric data, such as fingerprints or facial recognition scans, nor do they refer to the mandatory collection of this information. 

Guo noted that given the special sensitivity of biometric data (especially facial features), it is necessary to strengthen the protection of it. 

Some criminals have used artificial intelligence technologies to alter people’s photos that they illegally obtained and turned the photos into deep fakes for criminal purposes, media reported. 

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