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Trending in China: Are Last-Mile Logistics Companies Lording Over Their Customers?

Heather Mowbray / Nov 20, 2020 04:32 PM / Trending Stories

What’s trending?

Are personal details leaked when delivery depots make it compulsory to take a photo to pick up a parcel? The hashtag #快递代收点强制拍照会泄露隐私吗 is trending in recent days following China’s biggest shopping week of the year.

What’s the story?

As delivery boxes stack up in the week after the “Double 11” consumer frenzy, shoppers are accusing delivery depots of privacy infringement by making them identify themselves using facial recognition software before receiving ordered goods.

A video posted on Weibo shows customers scanning their faces at a Shanghai delivery depot. The logistics company in question asked customers to submit personal information including a photo so that it could build a databank of regulars in order to prevent theft and mishandling.

Facial recognition is regularly used by last-mile logistics firms in busy distribution centers such as universities and residential compounds where deliveries are often sent to depots rather than customers’ own addresses. This is argued to be more efficient and leads to fewer missing goods when customers are not at home during the day.

Although the Shanghai delivery company said “personal information will not be stored” the machine it uses has the function of storing facial images and there are no specific measures in place to maintain secure use of personal information. The video suggests a better method: using an ID card, a code, and a mobile phone number instead of giving away personal data to delivery companies.

What are people saying online?

Opinions on the issue span a range of arguments. A number of depot users complained saying “What to do if my face is later used to make payments?” and “Facial recognition is very insecure. Your face will be stored on the cloud server … giving the company your most important information. It is very easy for criminals to use this data.”

Consumers think delivery companies are getting too powerful. The comment, “They used to delivery things to my door, and now they don’t even do human checks … Maybe tomorrow, we will have to pick up our orders from the warehouse ourselves?” received almost 2,000 likes on Weibo.

One social media user wrote understandingly, “The industry is highly competitive, delivery fees are dropping all the time, but quantity is growing. So I ask for large items to be delivered to my door, and for small items I don’t mind.”

Some accept the value of using facial recognition. “When a package is mislaid at the depot, I still have to ask the original courier, or check the webcam at the depot. ... I personally think facial recognition is absolutely necessary,” said one buyer on Weibo.

Related: Gallery: China ‘Double 11’ Buyers, You’ve Got Mail 

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