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AI firms welcome measures protecting privacy

Zhu Shenshen
Companies involved in facial recognition technology respond to recent reports highlighting stores and firms collecting people's biological data without their permission.
Zhu Shenshen

Chinese artificial intelligence firms which offer facial recognition algorithms in airports, offices and stores are welcoming measures to protect personal privacy.

China has over 10,000 facial recognition-related businesses, making the country the world’s biggest facial recognition market. 

A recent report by China Central Television highlighted stores and firms collecting people's biological data without their permission. 

SenseTime and the Shanghai Jiao Tong University recently set up a research center of computing law and AI ethics, covering privacy protection, algorithm justice, network security and digital governance.

SenseTime said AI services should obey the principle of transparency, which guarantees people’s right to know the facial information is being collected. They should also includes the necessary authorization for facial information collection and a sound protection mechanism after collection to prevent data leakage.

AI giant CloudWalk is “sensitive” on the issue. Facial data collection and related applications have strong privacy and domain scalability, related to citizens’ personal privacy and even national security, it said in a statement.

CloudWalk saves data in clients' private cloud centers and makes them not retrospective with safety processing. Along with regulators, banks, carriers and other organizations, it said it is involved in establishing a national standard for data security and privacy protection. 

Yao Zhiqiang, CloudWalk’s co-founder, said the country should build a national standard for data interfaces in the AI industry. The government should establish a national-level data center, where regulators focus on supervision and core companies can participate. 

Stores equipped with cameras boasting facial recognition technology have been criticised for collecting people's biological data without their permission in reports released on March 15, World Consumer Rights Day.

Facial recognition has been hailed for the advantages it brings thanks to its big data applications but risk breaching personal privacy.

The global market for facial recognition technology is expected to more than double from US$3.2 billion in 2019 to US$7.9 billion in 2024. China alone accounted for almost half of the global business in facial recognition in 2018 and its total investment in the technology hit 40.6 billion yuan by 2020. 

“Smarter, Responsible, Scalable AI” is No. 1 among the top 10 trends on data. It encourages organizations to incorporate “ethical use" of data and AI, according to researcher Gartner.

Better algorithms and mechanisms enables less data or “small data,” while protecting privacy and embedding AI models more effectively, Julian Sun, Gartner’s research director, told a recent web conference.

Shanghai-based AI firm Yitu already has authorization on privacy protection from the British Standards Institution. The authorization is in line with Europe’s GDPR or general data protection regulation, one of the world’s strictest privacy protection standards globally.

AI firms welcome measures protecting privacy
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