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Netherlands gets its first biometric age checks for cigarette buyers

Netherlands gets its first biometric age checks for cigarette buyers

Cigarette smokers in the Netherlands will now have the option to buy tobacco products with age verification technology.

Around a hundred tobacco vending machines equipped with AI-powered face scanners have been installed across the country. Built by transaction and check-out system company H@nd, the NIX18 machines were designed in cooperation with the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) and privacy organizations.

Theo Snijders, CEO of H@nd, says that the process of building them took two years. The devices estimate customers’ faces, giving a green light to salesclerk if they are over 25 years of age. Buyers under 25 can verify their identity by scanning their ID, passport or driver’s license with the vending machine. The data is then immediately deleted, according to Snijders.

“This ensures strict compliance with privacy laws. The only information stored is how often the scan has been used and how many images have been approved,” he says. The facial scan is also optional, he adds.

The country’s data watchdog has recently issued an opinion to a company marketing a similar system, indicating that its deployment would be unlawful, Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad (AD) reports.

The Netherlands plans to make tobacco products only available at specialty stores and gas stations by July this year. Fines for stores that do not carry out age verification range from 160 euros to 9,000 euros (US$173 to US$9,771).

”This helps entrepreneurs tremendously, as the fines can be high and can even lead to the NVWA stopping tobacco sales,” says Snijders.

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