Would you pay together with your palm?


In a single late September video that I discovered significantly insightful, an individual who seems to be a WeChat worker may be heard instructing individuals to place their palms in entrance of a recognition system and file their palm prints. “New characteristic of WeChat Pay. Everyone seems to be welcome to attempt our service and assist us,” the voice says. In return, the customers who scan their palms can get a soda for the value of 1 cent.

The person who later uploaded the video asks when this characteristic was launched, and the voice replies that it began half a yr in the past however solely just lately got here to Guangzhou. 

Screenshot of one of the videos showing a WeChat palm-print payment device.

The cost gadgets in these movies are iPad-size white packing containers with one display exhibiting directions and a digicam capturing the palm knowledge. It’s unclear whether or not they’re meant just for testing the performance of palm-print recognition expertise or for gathering extra knowledge to assist fine-tune it (or each). Not one of the related movies point out that prospects are being informed how their knowledge will likely be used. I requested Tencent for a remark however I haven’t heard again.  

Irrespective of their actual use, the gadgets are doubtless nonetheless within the trial section, as they’re typically proven alongside a word saying “Trial location for WeChat palm-print scan cost” or “Inner testing. Please don’t inform exterior individuals.” In a single picture posted on-line, a written warning states that pictures of the system is prohibited. 

(Lol, this clearly didn’t cease individuals from taking photographs. And movies. And importing them to the web.)

This reporting expertise reaffirms an thought I’ve had for a very long time: It’s laborious to know what’s taking place in China from the skin, each due to the highly effective censorship machine and due to the border insurance policies that make visiting China troublesome. But Chinese language video platforms like Douyin and Kuaishou—that are changing conventional websites like Weibo to change into the place the place individuals specific themselves and doc their lives—can present extra perception than ever. For the reason that content material of movies is much less search-friendly than texts, they’re tougher to kind by, however in addition they typically pack extra info into only a few seconds. 

Clearly, there’s way more to the story of palm-print recognition than this preview. Why is the expertise having a second now, after facial recognition has thrived for years? How has the pandemic, which made face masks widespread, modified its course of growth? How may the rising consciousness of knowledge privateness assist or damage the prospect of palm-print recognition? There are lots of extra attention-grabbing discussions available concerning the technological and moral points of the expertise, and I’ll handle them within the full story that we’ll publish quickly. I’ll make sure to hyperlink within the subsequent publication.

Till then! I’ll see you once more subsequent week (or possibly in individual this week!).


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