All of Alipay’s face-scanning machines stationed in offline stores across China will be updated with a “face beautifying” feature within one week, the company said in a press release today.
Alipay explained that all the machine does is to scan the real face of the user, whether male or female and use software to “thin” and “lighten” the image.
In modern Chinese culture being thin and having white skin is considered beautiful and admirable, especially for women.
This “upgraded” image will just disappear as the user moves away from the machine and will not be retained.
“We extract the necessary data of your facial features to verify the payment and we then encrypt it via an algorithm. The information is used for payment only. The data is encrypted and anonymized to ensure each and every user’s privacy,” Alipay said.
The update is in response to users’ requests, the company added, saying that an online survey done by Sina Tech showed that when compared with males, females were more reluctant to use their faces to pay for items or services they had purchased. The survey also reported that 80% of female respondents cited the lack of a beautifying feature as a reason for their reluctance.
Before updating all machines nationwide, Alipay said it piloted this feature in some of its own stores.
The company said in the release that Alipay’s flagship store on Alibaba’s B2C online marketplace Tmall just ran out of stock of face-scanning machines today.
The development of facial recognition in China was listed as one of the 10 breakthrough technologies of 2017 by MIT Technology Review.