Schools using facial recognition system sparks privacy concerns in China

GETChina Insights
6 min readSep 9, 2019

Some startling action last week provoked contentious discussion regarding “privacy disclosure” and “data security” among public on China’s main social network platforms. These issues, which were not sensitive in Chinese society, finally got the attention it deserves after a face-swapping app sparked privacy concerns. The debate just went viral with many arguing that people who upload photos surrender intellectual property rights to their face and allow ZAO to use their image for marketing.

Meanwhile, a university in Nanjing installed an AI face recognition system not only for campus management but also class monitoring then lots of netizens worried that students’ right of privacy would be violated. It is worth noting that a Swedish secondary school was sentenced to 200,000 SEK(20,664 USD) for the same situation recently.

AI monitor continuously raises disputes from elementary school to university

Recently, China Pharmaceutical University piloted the AI face recognition system in some classrooms. Apart from automatically recognizing and recording students’ attendance, it also enables monitoring of the students’ in-class performance, which the school believes can urge students to study but public have opposite views.

Xu Jianzhen, the person in charge, said: “introducing this system is a request expressed by the school’s Academic Affairs Offices targeted at improving the students’ attendance rate and enhancing the classroom discipline.” However, some students believe that this system will violate their personal privacy while Xu Jianzhen responded: “The school has already consulted the public security department beforehand and the legal department claimed that there is no such thing as “infringement of privacy” since the classroom is a public place.”

In fact, it is not something new to install a camera in the classroom. But analyzing students’ class performance through AI face recognition technology has just emerged since recent years. Last month, an affiliated elementary school of Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine brought AI face recognition into the campus to monitor the behaviors of both teachers and students through the three sets of…

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