Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

Wednesday March 08, 2017

Pay for Goods with Your Face in China

In China, they have adopted technology that allows you to pay for goods with your face. A facial recognition startup called Face++ can track 83 unique traits about your face to allow you into buildings, track your movements through each room in the building, pay for goods at a store, etc. Facial recognition works because the Chinese government keeps a central database of all ID's and crime photos. To pay for goods and services with your face, the person has to prove that they are alive by moving their face. That way the system won't be duped by a photo. Cab drivers are scanned so that the passengers know that it is a legitimate cab driver. Alipay is a money transfer app on smartphones that accepts facial ID.

The central image database is key to fighting crime in China. The grainiest of photos from security cameras can be enhanced to match decades old mugshots. Deep learning teaches the A.I. to zero in on certain patterns and unique attributes on a person's face that will most likely identify them. Very cool software, but at what expense does this come? What is our privacy worth? What if the USA adopts the same technology? Do I really want the government being able to identify me from my newborn pictures?

Jie Tang, an associate professor at Tsinghua University who advised the founders of Face++ as students, says the convenience of the technology is what appeals most to people in China. Some apartment complexes use facial recognition to provide access, and shops and restaurants are looking to the technology to make the customer experience smoother. Not only can he pay for things this way, he says, but the staff in some coffee shops are now alerted by a facial recognition system when he walks in: "They say, ‘Hello, Mr. Tang.’"

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