Sleeping Chinese man robbed of US$1,800 as smartphone’s facial recognition system is caught napping – South China Morning Post

What happened: A pair of thieves managed to unlock a sleeping man’s smartphone and steal more than RMB 12,000 (around $1,800) as a result of faulty facial recognition technology. Police charged two of the victim’s roommates with theft after an investigation found they had unlocked the victim’s phone while he was sleeping to transfer the money using WeChat. The smartphone brand was not identified but police said it cost around RMB 1,000.

Why it’s important: Facial recognition technology holds a ubiquitous presence in China. Smart systems are used to track criminals, punish jaywalkers, make payments, and secure millions of mobile devices. However, the theft highlights the dangers of facial recognition when not implemented effectively. The device in question did not employ iris-scanning technology, allowing it to be unlocked even when its owner’s eyes were closed. Unsecured biometric data also poses a huge risk if it is leaked. Unlike passwords, which can be amended, facial data cannot be changed once compromised, making just one breach risky.

Christopher Udemans is TechNode's former Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covered Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, cleantech, and cybersecurity.

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