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New ATMs in China Recognize Your Face

Facial-recognition cash machines were designed to cut down on fraud

(DAVID GRAY/Reuters/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

Withdrawing cash in China just got a lot more personal. The International Business Times’ Hannah Osborne reports that the world’s first facial-recognition ATMs will soon be available in China — and that officials hope the machines will help cut down on financial fraud.

To take out cash using the new ATMs, users will stand in front of a camera that compares the facial features of the would-be withdrawer with a photo database, reports Osborne. No match? No cash. The machines will reportedly even be able to identify facial features that have changed, writes Osborne.

The machines were developed by anti-counterfeiting technology company Tzekwan in conjunction with Tsinghua University. The ability to recognize faces is just the beginning for the devices, which were designed to crack down on several ATM crimes at a time. Not only do they record the serial number of each bank note deposited, writes Osborne, but the machines can authenticate multiple types of currency with 20 percent more accuracy than their counterparts.

But the advent of ATMs that recognize facial features also raises plenty of questions, writes Gizmodo’s Jamie Condliffe. He points out that there’s no clarity on who will make the machines, when they’ll be rolled out, or how they’ll collect photos for the facial recognition database. The biggest question of all, writes Condliffe, is how to reconcile security with privacy concerns.

Will withdrawing money soon be as simple as glancing at a camera? Not so fast, writes Osbourne: though biometric-based ATMs have been part of industry buzz for several years, “security concerns and cost” are causing manufacturers to drag their feet on actual production. So it might be a while before you have to smile for the cash camera just yet.

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