China's Hyper-Realistic Silicone Masks Raise Legal Concerns for Bypassing Facial Recognition

By Thea Felicity

Jul 08, 2024 01:16 PM EDT

Chinese Burglar Uses Hyper-Realistic Silicone Masks to Bypass Facial Recognition
A person wearing the Guy Fawkes mask, also known as the V for Vendetta mask, or Anonymous mask, takes part in a vigil outside the China's embassy, in London, on June 4, 2024 to mark the 35th anniversary of the crackdown at Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
(Photo : BENJAMIN CREMEL/AFP via Getty Images)

In China, there's a growing grey market for hyper-realistic silicone masks that is currently raising serious concerns about their potential misuse. The South China Morning Post reported that these masks, available on the e-commerce platform Taobao, can transform wearers into anyone. 

These masks include, but are not limited to, celebrities and can be bought for up to 25,000 yuan ($3,400). Some online shops even claim these masks can bypass low-sensitivity facial recognition systems, sparking fears about their implications for security and privacy.

The masks, which can take up to a month to create, have garnered attention for their astonishing realism. One customer shared a TikTok video of Professor Severus Snape's mask, the character from the Harry Potter series, and praised its detailed accuracy. 

Requests for masks resembling celebrities like mainland actress Fan Bingbing have also been met with positive responses from sellers.

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Hyper-Realistic Silicone Masks Concerns

While they are being legitimately used as film-making props, there are growing concerns about the potential for these masks to be used in criminal activities. 

In the same SCMP report, Shanghai police arrested a burglar who used a silicone mask to disguise himself as an elderly man while committing theft in March. While the mask initially fooled surveillance cameras, the criminal was eventually tracked down through other evidence.

Legal experts warn that the sale and use of hyper-realistic masks could lead to concerning legal risks. Sherry Zhang, a  Shanghai Glinks Law Firm partner, stated that such masks could violate personal reputation and portrait rights. 

Additionally, sellers might face legal consequences if they misrepresent the masks' capabilities or sell them to individuals with malicious intent. Some also drew parallels with the recent AI "face swap" apps, which have also faced legal challenges for violating personal rights without consent.

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