TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Amid allegations the hotpot chain Haidilao (海底撈火鍋) is using Chinese surveillance technology, its Taiwan branch on Thursday (April 22) pledged not to send its video footage of customers overseas.
On April 17, Canada's Sunday Guardian Live accused Haidilao of enabling China's social credit program to "creep into Canada." The article alleged that at a branch in Vancouver, each of the restaurant's 30 tables had two video cameras to monitor staff and "people track," with the video footage being sent back to China.
On Tuesday (April 20), Haidilao Taiwan dismissed the article's claims and pledged that it would strictly protect the privacy of its customers. However, the controversy continued, and Haidilao Taiwan uploaded a Facebook post Thursday (April 22) stressing the "related equipment used is to protect consumers' dining rights and safety, avoid poor service, and improve service quality."
It claimed that images captured comply with Taiwan's laws and regulations. The Taiwanese eatery denied ever using facial recognition and analysis.
Haidilao Taiwan stated the resulting images will never be preserved and "they will never be backed up outside of Taiwan." However, the fact that it acknowledged that it was recording video footage of customers did little to allay concerns:
"If the head office in China asks to see the footage, can Taiwanese management refuse?"
“How can consumers trust that the information is only temporarily stored in the restaurant? Will it leak out?"
"Hehe, do you believe it? Chinese-funded enterprise."
"Just be frank: Anyway, it will continue to record video, it's up to you whether you want to eat here or not. Case closed."
Some netizens chose to support Haidilao:
"The advantage of video recording is that it can avoid disputes in the restaurant. Everyone has their own version of events."
"Going to Haidilao to eat hot pot is not doing a bad deed. What is there to fear from being monitored?"
"So what if they take video? Anyway, it's not like I'm a wanted criminal going out to eat."
"I don't mind it at all. The best part is if I wink at the camera when I need something, the waiter will come right away."