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Daily Drip

Secret Facial Recognition: Major Brands Exposed on Primetime TV

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March 15 is the date of a lesser-known global holiday: World Consumer Rights Day. In China, however, the day has become a massive television and social media event, where big-name brands — both foreign and domestic — are subjected to official criticism over their products and practices, all for the entertainment (and outrage) of the viewing public.

State-controlled channel CCTV has been known to pull out all the stops on March 15th with a 2-hour, primetime “315 Show.” The show doesn’t hold back when it comes to naming and shaming brands — calling them out on a variety of issues from overzealous robocalling and illegal data collection, to straight-up poor quality.

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This year’s program zeroed in on unscrupulous facial recognition practices, as well as the shady dealings of online job recruitment platforms.

Foreign brands BMW, Kohler, Max Mara, and Infiniti were all blasted over the illegal installation of in-store facial recognition cameras, which had been collecting information from unwitting customers.

Kohler in particular found itself in hot water after employees told China Media Group (CMG) that the cameras had been used to triangulate customers, collecting data ranging from the frequency of their visits, to the total number of locations they’d visited across the country.

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CMG noted that facial recognition data is considered sensitive personal information, and its use must be authorized by the person being recorded — the problem was that none of the companies listed in the report had informed their customers beforehand.

Domestic brands also caught flack, with major job recruitment sites Zhilian Zhaopin, 51job, and Liepin all being criticized for selling applicants’ personal information to secondary markets, while other platforms were found to have published false advertising for healthcare and medical products.

Cover image: Unsplash

Chloe Yorke
    Chloe was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Shanghai and San Francisco. She is currently studying Chinese at Durham University in the UK and is passionate about Chinese art and culture.