Money and how we spend it are certain to change in the future. Here’s an experimental form of payment that could be incredibly convenient – though it’s possible that significant privacy concerns could prevent it from gaining widespread usage.

As the video above shows, an experiment at a fast-food restaurant in China allows customers to pay sans cash or credit card. A kiosk takes an order and scans the customer’s face to figure out who to bill it to. (The customer previously would have pre-registered using Alipay. The technology is from the Chinese company Face++.)

The benefits of such a system are significant: safe payments of goods or services without need for your wallet or mobile phone.

But if this strikes you as “big brother”-ish, you’re not alone. What with security cameras pretty much ubiquitous today and still growing in numbers, you can’t help but be concerned about governments and corporations more easily tracking most every move that you make.

The MIT Technology Review article cited below notes how local governments in China are using the Face++ software “to identify suspected criminals in video from surveillance cameras, which are omnipresent in the country. This is especially impressive – albeit somewhat dystopian – because the footage analyzed is far from perfect, and because mug shots or other images on file may be several years old.”

As for corporations, the day will come before long that when you walk into a Starbuck Coffee, the barista might say unprompted, thanks to the shop’s facial recognition system, “Welcome, Mr./Ms. Jones. What can I get you?” Convenient or creepy? You decide.


Further reading:
This Chinese KFC lets you put your money where your mouth is
C|NET
September 3, 2017
 
Paying with Your Face: Face-detecting systems in China now authorize payments, provide access to facilities, and track down criminals. Will other countries follow?
MIT Technology Review
February, 2017