China is trialing a facial recognition technology at pharmacies to combat drug abuse. By using technology at 31 health care organizations that require an identity check using face scans before the pickup of medication, it is hoped that this effort will reduce drug abuse.
Shanghai is part of the pilot. At the terminals, pharmacists and buyers of controlled prescriptions (e.g., sedatives, pain meds, etc.) must verify their identities via scanning their faces according to local news reports. Built into the design is the ability to flag potential and high-risk abusers, not to mention prevent any collusion from health professionals. Chinese authorities seek to prevent possible abusers from securing drugs containing targeted substances (e.g., ephedrine, psychotropic substances, and tranquilizers) and converting them into raw materials for larger illicit drug production.
Shanghai has been testing the system since November 2019 and plans to have full coverage for all of that large city’s medical institutions by the first half of next year. The system to date has been adopted by 31 health care organizations across seven districts performing more than 300 facial scans reports China News.
Facial Recognition Nation
This news reflects the ongoing expansion of facial recognition technology in China, where the systems are used to track nearly all facets of public life, from mobile payments to standard city crosswalks. Abacus News reports that around 118 million Chinese have signed up for facial recognition payments in 2019 compared to 61 million in 2018 reported iiMedia Research. The research consultancy expects this number to reach a staggering 760 million by 2022 or half of the country’s population.
Security and Privacy Concerns
Contrary to popular belief in America—that Chinese citizens don’t care about their data protection—one report reveals nearly 80% of Chinese fear that their facial data could be leaked. A first lawsuit concerning facial recognition data occurred recently where a law professor sued a wildlife park, as revealed in a survey by Nandu Personal Information Protection Research Center.