Beijing eyes facial recognition for metro security

BEIJING • Beijing will use facial recognition tools to speed up security checks in the city's overcrowded metro, using a credit system to sort passengers into different channels, state-run media reported yesterday.

Long queues and commuters arguing with staff over slow security checks are common sights during rush hour in the metro system of the 20 million-strong metropolis.

The city plans to install cameras that will scan the faces of passengers as they enter a subway station and sort them into different security channels, said Mr Zhan Minghui, director of the Beijing Rail Traffic Control Centre.

He said the plan involves creating a "passenger credit system", and individuals on a "white list" will be offered expedited security clearance, Beijing Youth Daily reported. Those who receive "abnormal feedback" after their faces are scanned will be subjected to extra checks.

Mr Zhan did not offer details on the criteria used to sort passengers, what could trigger that type of feedback, or a timetable for rolling out the technology.

"The technique aims to improve the efficiency of security checks and includes both body checks and luggage screening when large numbers of passengers enter the station," he told an urban transportation forum in Beijing on Tuesday.

The Beijing subway said in May that it has started "deducting credit points" from passengers who eat in railway carriages.

The city's subway system handles more than 12 million trips on a work day, and the number is expected to increase to 17 million trips by 2022.

Mr Zhan did not offer a timetable for rolling out the technology.

Facial recognition is gaining traction across China, where it is being used for everything from supermarket checkouts to surveillance.

 
 

While researchers have warned of the privacy risks associated with gathering facial recognition data, consumers have widely embraced the technology.

The Universal Studios amusement park under construction in Beijing recently said it will admit visitors without a ticket - thanks to cameras that will scan their faces to determine if they have paid for entry.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2019, with the headline 'Beijing eyes facial recognition for metro security'. Print Edition | Subscribe