Silicone face masks used for theft spark debate on sales and regulation
Published: Jul 02, 2024 12:50 AM
Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

The illegal use of a silicone face mask by a man has sparked public discussion in China. There is a growing call for stricter regulation and oversight of the sale and use of silicone face masks on Chinese e-commerce platforms.

A man used a silicone face mask to disguise himself as an elderly person and broke into four homes, stealing over 100,000 yuan ($14,000) worth of valuables. After residents reported the thefts, the police in East China's Shanghai arrested the suspect and recovered all the stolen goods the next day, according to Legal Daily's report on Monday.

On several e-commerce platforms, there are no results when searching for "human skin mask." However, using alternative keywords like "silicone mask" reveals numerous products.

The masks sell for prices ranging from tens to thousands of yuan, with high-end masks available for customization. Sellers informed the Global Times that cheaper masks often fail facial recognition due to poor craftsmanship and are mainly for entertainment.

However, some masks priced up to tens of thousands of yuan can pass certain low-sensitivity recognition machines, according to some sellers. "Custom masks can be made from photos, a service not mentioned on the product description pages," a seller told the Global Times on Monday.

"You can send us 3D scan dimensions, or provide photos, head and facial measurements, and 360-degree face photos," another seller told the Global Times. This means customers can simply provide photos or 3D scan data to get a realistic mask.

About 10 sellers said that no identity information or explanation of purpose is needed on any platforms, but most purchases are non-refundable.

Silicone face masks are made from special silicone or similar materials. Initially designed for film and theater, these masks also cater to individuals seeking to cover scars or restore their appearance. Generally, the higher the price, the more realistic the mask, according to industry observers. Police in various regions have warned that criminals are increasingly using silicone face masks to disguise themselves.

"Using others' pictures without agreements to make the masks infringes on portrait rights. However, despite their misuse for criminal activities, it is difficult to ban these products due to their legitimate uses, such as scar coverage and theatrical performances," Zhao Zhanling, a lawyer from Beijing JAVY Law Firm, told the Global Times on Monday.

Furthermore, Zhao strongly encourages e-commerce platforms to enhance their oversight and rigorously vet sellers of such items.

Global Times