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Facial recognition law in China
  1. Zhaohui Su1,
  2. Ali Cheshmehzangi2,3,
  3. Dean McDonnell4,
  4. Barry L Bentley5,
  5. Claudimar Pereira da Veiga6,
  6. Yu-Tao Xiang7,8,9
  1. 1 School of Public Health, Southeast University, Nanjing, China
  2. 2 Department of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Nottingham - Ningbo China, Ningbo, Zhejiang, China
  3. 3 Network for Education and Research on Peace and Sustainability, Hiroshima University, Hiroshima, Japan
  4. 4 Department of Humanities, Institute of Technology Carlow, Carlow, Ireland
  5. 5 Cardiff School of Technologies, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Cardiff, UK
  6. 6 School of Management—PPGOLD, UFPR, Curitiba, PR, Brazil
  7. 7 Department of Public Health and Medicinal Administration, University of Macau, Taipa, Macau, China
  8. 8 Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Macau, Macau, Macau, China
  9. 9 Centre for Cognitive and Brain Sciences, University of Macau, Macau, Macau, China
  1. Correspondence to Professor Zhaohui Su, School of Public Health, Southeast University, Nanjing, China; suzhaohuiszh{at}; Professor Yu-Tao Xiang, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Macau, Macau, China; ytxiang{at}


Although the prevalence of facial recognition-based COVID-19 surveillance tools and techniques, China does not have a facial recognition law to protect its residents’ facial data. Oftentimes, neither the public nor the government knows where people’s facial images are stored, how they have been used, who might use or misuse them, and to what extent. This reality is alarming, particularly factoring in the wide range of unintended consequences already caused by good-intentioned measures and mandates amid the pandemic. Biometric data are matters of personal rights and national security. In light of worrisome technologies such as deep-fake pornography, the protection of biometric data is also central to the protection of the dignity of the citizens and the government, if not the industry as well. This paper discusses the urgent need for the Chinese government to establish rigorous and timely facial recognition laws to protect the public’s privacy, security, and dignity amid COVID-19 and beyond.

  • Ethics- Medical
  • Policy
  • Mental Health
  • Communicable Diseases

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  • Correction notice The article has been corrected since it was published online first. Co-author Barry L Bentley's affiliation has been updated to Cardiff School of Technologies, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Cardiff, UK.

  • Contributors ZS conceived the work, reviewed the literature, drafted, and edited the manuscript. AC, DMD, BLB, CPdV, and YTX reviewed the literature and edited the manuscript. All authors approved the manuscript for submission.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.