China has developed a new facial recognition payment system, and its use has widespread privacy implications. According to the latest results from the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS), Chinese scientists have hit upon a novel new system – which is a very positive step in the financial markets – but the bone of contention has been that it claims a near perfect accuracy in recognizing faces.
This new technology is going to be incorporated in a mobile app that is to be launched in 2015, and at the time of launch next year, it is going to be available to retailers and also to individual customers. The Science and Technology Daily reported that the CAS – which is based in the Chinese city of Chongqing – said it set up the world’s largest database of Asian faces, which presently contains above 50 million records.
According to the inventors, the new digital payment system scored a “very high” accuracy of 99.8 percent, measured by the international standard developed at Carnegie Mellon University in the United States. They added that this exceeded the system’s predecessor which had a best record of “only” 97.6 percent. This high accuracy rating has widespread privacy implications, most notably, the potential for abuse. There is also the concern about the devious crimes that could be committed by hackers; not only in stealing people’s private financial information and robbing them blind, but also being able to identify who they are and where they live.
The controversy extends beyond privacy and into fears about failure rates–people not being able to access their own money. An accuracy of 99.8 percent means a 1 out of 500 failure rate, which several financial and computer science analysts have described as far away from near perfection when talking about money. In order for financial transactions to be secure, this figure needed to be far below one out of several hundred million, something like 99.9999999’ish or much better.
Taking into consideration how fast it is to make 500-plus financial transactions with the use of modern technology, even for an individual, the technology cannot be definitely viable for commercial use as of yet. The CAS has not let things lie down at that, though. According to the director of the Chongqing Green-Tech Research Institute, Zhou Xi, the system’s unique data-collection technology is capable of gathering facial details from at least 91 distinct angles, all at the same time. He also adds that researchers enhanced its learning abilities to function much more accurately even in a dynamic environment.
In a bid to address other security concerns in China, Zhou says that the new app does have a special algorithm that easily detects whether a scanned face is really the actual one instead of held-up videos or photos. The system is also equipped with online learning capabilities to automatically study any changing features of a subject. For example: the system is able to prevent weight changes from having an effect on the scanning results.
Also, according to the developers, after installing the app on a mobile device, and linking it with a credit card or bank account, it takes one second for the system to accurately identify a payer. The new facial recognition system has so far been tested at border control situations. All the science world hopes for, it seems, is that before this app is released into the financial market next year, it is going to be an improved version, otherwise the world is going to be engaging in high-risk finances. China’s new facial recognition payment system has widespread privacy implications as well as fears over accuracy. Once it is implemented in China it is sure to make its way to the U.S., and some say Americans already have enough privacy concerns, such as the NRA, hacking attacks, identity theft and other cyber crimes. Many shudder to think about how the new system will add to this growing body of dangers.
By: Rebecca Savastio