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Kunming bank opens first biometric outlet in Yunnan

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It has been happening across China, and now digital facial recognition technology has arrived in Yunnan. A bank in the capital city of Kunming has become the first business in the province to offer face scans in lieu of using a card to access accounts through automatic teller machines. The service is currently available at only one location — and only for existing customers — but the move is a first step for a technology that is expected to seep into every facet of life in China over the coming few years.

China Merchants Bank (招商银行) unveiled their facial recognition program at an ATM kiosk on Wednesday October 12. Situated on Jinbi Lu (金碧路), the cash machines now operate without cards. Customers simply face a digital scanner for up to five seconds as their likeness is matched with a file photo. Their account then opens automatically on the cash machine in front of them.

As a secondary verification measure, patrons must then enter their current cell phone and bank account PIN numbers. The entire process, according to local media, takes between 15 and 20 seconds. And while that amount of time is perhaps exactly the same duration it would take to insert a card and access funds, bank operators argue that the face scans will eventually eliminate entirely the need to carry bank cards. The logical offshoot — so the reasoning goes — is that without cards it will become far more difficult for thieves to access other people's accounts.

So how did Merchants Bank compile a database of photos for all of their Kunming customers in the first place? It turns out each time a patron visited the bank in person over the past year, their face was photographed during interactions with counter staff. The bank then created a digital composite in the run-up to launching its facial recognition system.

The same story is playing out all over China, perhaps most extensively during the recent double holiday, when some train stations in Shandong used facial scans instead of security guards to match travelers with their tickets. In cities around the country, not only are banks and mass transit nodes using such applications, so too are fast food restaurants, hotels and ticketed tourist destinations.

While fashion, shopping trends and even some legal requirements take longer to arrive in Kunming than to other Chinese cities, it appears ubiquitous facial recognition is somewhat of an inevitability. Already, internet accounts, utility billing, mobile phone SIM cards and WeChat accounts are linked to national identification numbers and what the Chinese government calls "real-name registrations" (市民认证). Biometric data may soon become yet another requirement, all while facial recognition software in other parts of the world remains a controversial and imperfect commodity.

Image: TayVan Drama

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lets hope it is better software than apple

What if I lose/gain 50 lbd.? Or have plastic surgery?

Really, Kongming, you should know by now: it was once thought that machines should be made responsible to the needs of human beings; but since machines have no sense of responsibility, it has long been understood that it is the responsibility of human beings to conform to the needs of machines. Anyone who has ever thought about the layout of a modern city - especially the transportation sector - or has attempted to converse with an electronic entity, should know this.

""bank operators argue that the face scans will eventually eliminate entirely the need to carry bank cards. "

If carrying a bank card around is too much for you then chances are there's probably not an awful lot to withdraw from your account.

Coming into effect from December 1, 2019, people applying for new mobile and data services will have to have their faces scanned by telecom providers,

New regulation by China's MIIT (Ministry of Industry and Information Technology):


Isn't intense all-reaching surveillance wonderful!

Now stand on the sidelines and watch it go global!
Perhaps the rest of this century might simply be cancelled now.

Another caveat is that phone users are also banned from passing their mobile phone numbers to others. This Dec. 1st regulation may prevent you and your family member(s) from sharing SIM cards linked to one account. Thus, curtailing unlimited data usage by multiple users. Big w$n for telecom providers by blocking this loophole.

Ishmael, flip side is that scammers engaged in phone and internet fraud will hit a roadblock when this facial recognition safeguard is put in place nationwide.

If they are stopping family members from sharing, accessing SIMs, then I hope they relax the rules for foreigners.

I presume the Tiger family is currently feasting on a data buffet.

Service providers will likely offer separate family packages that allow sharing of data, like the current 80G family plan as advertised by China Telecom.

This of course will be more costly than above mentioned single plan shared privately with others,

perhaps soon to be in jeopardy.

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