A customer has her face scanned by a facial recognition system to pay for her purchase at a store in Wenzhou city, East China's Zhejiang province, on Jan 16, 2019. (Photo: IC)
Facial data are being collected or sold online illegally by some e-commerce platforms and apps, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Friday, with cases of 5,000 facial pictures being priced at 10 yuan ($1.42) and has been arousing fears among netizens.
Internet users on China's Twitter-like social media platform Weibo have been expressing their fear of such privacy information being stolen, which might be used in illegal activities. They are calling for a strict crackdown on such activities and noted a sound protection system should be rolled out as soon as possible alongside the promotion of facial recognition technology.
"These data could be used for illegal activities, such as online scams," a netizen said.
On a second-hand trading platform zhuanzhuan.com, a CCTV reporter found that customers could purchase over 5,000 facial pictures, which might not require authorization, for only 10 yuan. A facial data seller told the reporter that "pictures with authorization could not be priced at such a cheap price."
Global Times reporters found on Sunday that the platform has blocked searching for related goods, showing that the search content may be in violation of certain laws or regulations.
Some others asked where or through what channels these sellers could collect so much facial data, and noted that related authorities should have comprehensive investigations.
China has been a forerunner in the application of facial recognition technology, including online payment and security checks, which could speed up these procedures. Meanwhile, concerns about private information being violated have also been openly discussed.
"Facial data should only be collected and managed by the national departments," a netizen said, "and related laws and regulations should be launched and optimized as soon as possible."
Like second-hand e-commerce platforms, some apps are also collecting facial data without any procedure of seeking authorization by users, including face grading apps, according to the report.