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Pictures of more than 5,000 faces found selling for less than US$2 in China

Pictures of more than 5,000 faces found selling for less than US$2 in China
10 yuan for 5,000 faces. (Picture: CCTV)

Vendors on the Tencent-backed secondhand ecommerce site Zhuanzhuan were found to be illegally selling thousands of images of people’s faces, according to a report from China’s state-owned CCTV

One bundle of 5,000 pictures was being sold for just 10 yuan (US$1.42), and it included multiple images of people with various facial expressions. The listings have been removed from Zhuanzhuan. We reached out to the company for comment but didn’t receive an immediate response.

According to the report, many Chinese apps don’t have the proper terms and conditions to protect users’ pictures. Some apps have been excessively collecting personal information from their users.

Other merchants were also looking to sell facial data on Baidu Tieba, China’s Reddit-like bulletin board service. According to the report, a picture on its own costs as little as half a yuan (US$0.07), but it’s 4 yuan (US$0.57) for a picture that comes with the person’s ID number, bank account information and mobile phone number. Baidu didn't immediately respond to our request for comment. 

The report quoted one merchant saying he doesn’t have permission to sell the pictures, which are often sold as resources to train machine-learning algorithms.

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