Beijing hospitals spot scalpers using facial recognition

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China is using facial recognition technology to crack down on hospital scalpers in the country’s capital, as authorities seek to eliminate the illegal sale of medical appointments at inflated prices.

The Beijing Municipal Health Commission (BMHC) said that 30 hospitals in the capital city had collected the facial data of more than 2,000 people who had been punished for booking and selling medical appointments in bulk, reports the Beijing Daily (in Chinese).

Scalpers sell appointments at inflated rates to hospital goers hoping to skip queues, which in turn can result in longer waits for those who can’t afford their prices. Around 900 hospital touts were arrested in Beijing last year as part of a citywide crackdown.

The facial recognition system uses visual data, which is tied to identifying information, to flag suspected scalpers for monitoring when they enter one of the city’s hospitals. Individuals who are found to be selling medical appointments could face detention and restrictions, including bans from some forms of train air travel, and talking out loans.

In an effort to crack down on scalping, hospitals have also released their own apps, which allow users to make an appointment ahead of time, thereby reducing waits in queues and eliminating the need for paying more to skip long lines. Bookings can also be made through Alibaba-backed payment platform Alipay and popular messaging app WeChat, among others.

Facial recognition has become commonplace in China. The country’s private enterprises have led the charge in its development. Social media and gaming giant Tencent uses it to cut down on the amount of time China’s youth spend gaming, Alipay has incorporated it into its payment system, while China’s metros seek to use the technology following their adoption of QR codes to pay for commutes. The technology has also famously been used to spot fugitives at large public events.