Surgical facemasks for coronavirus protection prevent facial biometrics from working in China

Surgical facemasks for coronavirus protection prevent facial biometrics from working in China

Facial recognition is failing frequently in China at the moment, having a hard time identifying people wearing surgical masks to protect themselves from coronavirus, writes abacus. As residents are walking the streets with their faces half-covered, unlocking their phones with facial recognition or making a biometric mobile payment have proven impossible.

According to people reporting about their experience on Chinese microblogging website Weibo, the only time some are not wearing the mask is when they are sleeping. Others hope Apple will bring back fingerprint readers, or they complained they could no longer enter their facial recognition-enabled gated communities.

The masks are also making it harder for China’s facial recognition system, widely deployed in train stations, airports, stores and hotels, to monitor people.

A Huawei executive noted last week that the company had looked into the possibility of facial recognition for people who wear masks when developing its flagship smartphone.

“We tested the mask-wearing scenario on the Mate 20 Pro,” wrote Huawei vice president Bruce Lee on Weibo. “But there are too few feature points for the eyes and the head, so it’s impossible to ensure security. We gave up on facial unlock for mask/scarf wearing. This is also why we still keep fingerprint recognition while supporting 3D facial recognition on our phones.”

User have become so accustomed to using facial recognition for payments that they are hesitant to go back to passcode payments.

As coronavirus episodes are increasing, Chinese people are not willing to walk out of their houses without masks. Since it became an international concern, Alibaba has allegedly sold 80 million masks.

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