We’ve all seen how facial recognition software can go badly wrong. But it seems that China hasn’t gotten the message, since they’re going forward with a new plan for ATMs which rely on face-scanning technology.

The new machines will reportedly snap a quick picture of the person trying to access each account, and cross-reference their facial features with a database to find a match.

We can see at least three fatal flaws with this plan. Can you guess what they are?

Made with technology developed by a company called Tzekwan in collaboration with Tsinghua University, the new machines are designed to pinpoint the distance between a person’s eyes, the length of their nose, and the width of their mouth. This means that, even if the user changes their hairstyle or slaps on some heavy makeup, a positive ID should, in theory, still be possible.

This all sounds pretty impressive and wonderfully futuristic, but there are three major flaws with this plan, as far as we see it.

1. What about privacy?

Adding an image of your face to an enormous database isn’t something that everyone is going to be up for. A simple card and PIN system allows for greater control over privacy, and besides, creating the database in the first place is probably going to cost a lot of time and money. Sometimes it’s bad enough getting a passport photo taken, let alone letting your bank catalogue your ugly mug on their database. And what if those records get hacked or tampered with somehow?

▼ ATMs can be manipulated. Like so.

FlickrCory Doctorow

2. What if you get plastic surgery?

How is the facial recognition software supposed to work if an account holder undergoes plastic surgery, or suffers some sort of disfigurement as a result of an accident? We can’t really see this technology catching on in, say, South Korea, where plastic surgery is something that a lot of people opt for. There’s also the concern that criminals might undergo plastic surgery in order to imitate another person and empty their bank account.

▼ Having to update your database picture after every procedure is gonna be a real pain in the bum.

FlickrGlobal Panorama

3. All they need is your head

Do they want beheadings? Because this is probably how they get beheadings. The plot device involving a palm print- or retina-operated door locks has been done to death in movies, and usually involves the criminal chopping off someone’s hand our gouging out their eye in order to get access to some secret area. Sure, it’s pretty extreme, but what’s to stop hardcore bad guys from lopping some millionaire’s head off and holding it up to the ATM? Gah, now we’ve really freaked ourselves out…

▼ If you become a victim of head theft, you can always join the circus.


There are a couple of other issues that might deter people from using this technology – for example, family members won’t be able to borrow or use one another’s cards any more to get cash out of the bank for each other. Can you think of any more issues with this new technology? Would you be happy to use it?

Source: Gizmodo via Hachima Kikou
Main Image: FlickrJon Rawlinson