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  1. #1
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    [EN] Alipay launches facial recognition payment at KFC in China

    Scanning unaffected by make-up or hairstyle

    Jethro Mullen and Serenitie Wang
    September 1, 2017

    Forget cash, credit cards or a smartphone -- customers can now settle the bill with their face thanks to new technology unveiled on Friday.

    Ant Financial, an affiliate of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, launched the new service in the eastern city of Hangzhou. It's the latest example of the growing use of facial recognition by businesses and government agencies in the world's most populous nation.

    Diners at the restaurant, a KFC brand in China known as KPro, place their order at a terminal, which then scans their face. If it matches the image on the photo ID stored in the system, the customer only has to enter their phone number and the payment goes through. (Their food is still served by a regular human.)

    The system is based on Ant Financial's digital payment platform Alipay, which has more than half a billion users worldwide and already allows people to sign into its Chinese app using their face.

    Ant says the KFC restaurant is the first physical store in the world to use facial recognition software to take payments.

    The company is eager to reassure consumers that the technology is secure. The software analyzes more than 600 facial features to make a match, and uses a 3D camera and a "liveness" algorithm to make sure people aren't trying to fool it with photos or videos of someone else.

    Similar technology is already being used in a variety of ways in China.

    Tech company Baidu began testing facial recognition software last year to manage tourist admissions in Wuzhen, a historic town that receives millions of visitors each year. Staff at Baidu headquarters can pay with their faces in the company restaurant.

    Baidu has also attempted a more ambitious test project at a KFC in Beijing, scanning customers' faces to try to predict their preferred order based on factors such as age, mood and gender.

    Ant Financial says its new system will eventually be introduced in Chinese retail outlets other than KFC. (Ant is an investor in Yum China, the company that runs KFC in the country.)

    "We hope one day in the future people can go out without their cell phones or wallets," said Dong Liyun, a product manager at Ant Financial.

    Experts say the introduction of facial recognition software in China has been helped by the country's massive database of citizens' ID photos -- as well as the huge amount of images collected by internet companies.

    Chinese authorities, meanwhile, are already combining facial recognition technology with the country's network of surveillance cameras to monitor citizens. Police are reported to have caught suspects by surreptitiously scanning faces at events, including a recent beer festival.

    "Facial recognition has started to become a requirement in new city surveillance projects in China," research firm IHS Markit said in a recent report.

    Face scanners even made it into the toilet stalls at a popular park in Beijing in order to stop people taking more than their fair share of toilet paper.

    http://money.cnn.com/2017/09/01/tech...ion/index.html

  2. #2
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    off-topic





    Paul Mozur‏ @paulmozur 8 hours ago

    Looks like Tencent and Apple busy making nice after dispute over WeChat. Tencent CEO Pony Ma, WeChat creator Allen Zhang meet w/ Tim Cook...

  3. #3
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    Face Recognition Spots Wanted Suspects at Beer Festival


    "The millions of faces collected at the beer festival will only be available to law enforcement"

    A city famous for its beer culture and eponymous Tsingtao Brewery, Qingdao has been holding an annual beer festival for 27 years, attracting up to 4 million lager lovers from within China and abroad.

    Police arrest 49 people identified by cameras at event’s entrances.


    Wang Yiwei
    Aug 31, 2017


    A facial recognition system used at one of China’s largest festivals has proven a powerful resource for finding suspects at large, but critics say such extensive use of the technology raises privacy and even national security concerns.

    Police in Qingdao, a coastal city in eastern China’s Shandong province, used the technology to identify and arrest 25 criminal suspects during the International Beer Festival throughout the month of August, local media reported Monday.

    The system also recognized people with histories of drug addiction, 19 of whom tested positive for drug use and were subsequently arrested, as were five people with previous convictions for theft who were found to have stolen phones and other items at the event.

    “This is the first time we have used facial recognition technology for such a massive security check,” Li Peng, head of the local police station’s publicity department, told Sixth Tone.

    A city famous for its beer culture and eponymous Tsingtao Brewery, Qingdao has been holding an annual beer festival for 27 years, attracting up to 4 million lager lovers from within China and abroad.

    The 18 cameras installed at the four entrances captured a total of 2.3 million faces. “Those wanted criminals let their guard down when they went to the festival, which doesn’t check for ID,” said Li. “But they were not aware that a simple shot of their faces would lead to their arrest.”

    The system automatically compared people at the event with a national police database and identified more than 190 individuals, including people wanted for financial fraud and prostitution. The system can recognize a suspect within one second, according to the media report.

    Other law enforcement departments in China have also employed facial recognition to track people down. At the beginning of this year, police in the southern tech hub of Shenzhen cracked a child abduction case within 15 hours by using similar technology. And in May, Shenyang police caught three wanted criminals two weeks after a facial recognition surveillance system was installed in the city’s subway system.

    Facial recognition is also being put to a growing array of other uses. The Shenzhen government on Wednesday launched so-called smart taxis that identify drivers by their face, and a Beijing university is equipping its dorms with cameras so students can enter using their appearance. It has even been used to limit the amount of toilet paper one individual can use at a public bathroom in Beijing.

    In many areas, Chinese companies are working closely with government departments on facial recognition. Yitu Technology, the company that provided technological support at the Qingdao beer festival, has worked with Chinese customs and immigration authorities to identify wanted suspects and smugglers. Yitu, which did not immediately respond to Sixth Tone’s request for comment, has established “the world’s biggest face database, with a total of 1.5 billion faces,” according to its website.

    Other companies, such as Cloud Walk in Guangzhou and Intellifusion in Shenzhen, have worked with municipal police forces across the country to install surveillance systems in subways and streets.

    Liu Chunquan, an intellectual property attorney at Duan & Duan law firm in Shanghai, said the large-scale collection of biological information should be avoided due to privacy concerns and the inevitable risk of such information falling in the wrong hands. “This is a threat to national security,” he said.

    Li of the Qingdao police said that the millions of faces collected at the beer festival will only be available to law enforcement, and that Yitu, the company providing the technology, will not have access to the data.

    But even relatively harmless applications of facial recognition and related technologies have raised privacy concerns, such as jaywalking detection systems in multiple cities that display the faces — and sometimes the partial names — of violators on large screens. Zhang Zhuting, a professor at a college for Party cadres that falls under the remit of the Ministry of Transport, told state-owned newspaper Legal Daily in an interview that the police should inform the public that they are entering a surveillance area.

    Meanwhile, regulations for the collection and application of such information are limited. Several provinces and cities have published or proposed guidelines for public surveillance. National rules were drafted and published in December 2016, but have yet to be passed.

    “As yet, there is no mature legislation for the use of biological information and related privacy issues,” said Liu, the lawyer, “and China still has a long way to go.”

    Editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.

    http://www.sixthtone.com/news/100077...-beer-festival

  4. #4
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    Ants in your pants

    Ant Financial is 16 times larger than PayPal

    The Economist
    August 25th, 2017

    IN WESTERN countries it is common to talk about American technology being dominant. From an Asian perspective that seems off. Fresh from visiting the region, where buskers and kerbside fishmongers can be paid by presenting a phone, Schumpeter has found it a shock being back in New York. There, buying most things involves signing bits of paper and PIN numbers are viewed as dangerously transgressive. Only 2% of credit- and debit-card transactions in America are authenticated with PIN numbers; 19bn cheques are written in the country every year.

    Asian firms have leapfrogged ahead, offering a new model of financial technology. Exhibit A is Ant Financial, a payments company affiliated with Alibaba, one of China’s two giant internet firms (the other is Tencent, whose WeChat messaging app is ubiquitous and supports payments). Ant is popular in China and has ambitions outside it. Already the world’s most valuable “fintech” firm, worth $60bn, it has 520m payments customers at home and its affiliates abroad have 112m, mainly in Asia. In May it signed a deal to install its payments system in millions of American retail outlets. Ant is in the process of buying MoneyGram, a Texas-based money-transfer firm active in over 200 countries.

    One admired boss in the conventional banking industry says Ant keeps him awake at night. For protectionists, the firm is evidence of a Chinese plot to control the world’s financial plumbing. For consumers, it could boost competition in a cosy industry.

    Ant was spun out of Alibaba in 2014. Its core business is enabling payments by a vast army of customers to the 10m or so merchants who use Alibaba’s e-commerce sites. This accounts for over a quarter of its revenues, according to CLSA, a brokerage. And it gives Ant huge scale at home. China’s internet-payments market is the world’s biggest, reckons Goldman Sachs, with $11trn in transactions last year, twice the size of America’s credit- and debit-card industry. Ant controls 51% of it. The firm is 16 times larger than PayPal, an American counterpart, on this measure.

    China’s lead is about more than size, though. People make payments mainly by using phones. Whereas Western products such as Apple Pay typically piggyback off credit-card firms’ networks to access clients’ funds, China’s firms often access bank accounts directly, cutting out the middlemen.

    Ant has developed a menu of services: its home screen lets you buy train tickets, pay utility bills and invest in mutual funds. Yu’e Bao, a money-market fund run by Ant, has $166bn of assets. Ant lends to its clients, but so far its balance sheet is modest: outstanding loans to small firms were $5bn in 2016. Fees are low, but Ant’s profits still reached a chunky $820m last year, up by 14% since 2014. (It does not publish its books, but some figures can be inferred from Alibaba’s accounts.)

    Jack Ma, the tycoon who controls Alibaba and Ant, has a grand vision to turn a Chinese empire into a global one. For Ant there are two opportunities. One is a business known as “merchants acceptance”, machines for paying for goods in shops and hotels. At the moment Chinese travellers abroad, whose ranks reached 120m in 2016, often use UnionPay, a card provider. Ant is muscling in, letting people use Alipay when they have weekends in Dubai or make family trips to Disneyland.

    Longer term, the goal is to create a huge online network of local consumers and merchants in other countries, replicating Ant’s model in China. But building relationships with local banks and firms takes time. And in poorer countries few people have bank accounts to connect to their mobile accounts. Instead they hand over cash in shops and kiosks to fill up mobile wallets.

    As a result Ant is expanding through local subsidiaries or affiliates. Along with Alibaba it owns about half of Paytm, an Indian digital-payments star. And it has bought stakes in fintech firms in Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and South Korea. Buying MoneyGram would not bring cutting-edge technology—its core activity is cash remittances—but would give Ant licences abroad and clients who could be prodded to use digital services.

    Ant’s scale, innovation and drive mean it is well placed. But it faces three hurdles. First, rising competition is dampening margins. At home WeChat has helped boost Tencent’s market share in digital payments from 15% in 2014 to 33% last year. Abroad, Ant is not the first mover. In South-East Asia several e-commerce and ride-hailing firms are bolting payments onto their apps to attract and keep more customers. DBS, a regional lender, is a leader in digital banking. In America, Apple Pay is accepted in 4.5m locations and could get more popular.

    As Ant grows it must manage a second problem, its tangled links with Alibaba. The original spin-off was controversial. Today Mr Ma controls a majority of the firm’s voting interests. State-backed funds and entities collectively own about 15%. Alibaba doesn’t own shares in Ant but is entitled to 37.5% of its profits. If Ant does an initial public offering this agreement can change and Alibaba would get 33% of its shares. The two firms share joint ventures and executives. They pay fees to—and receive them from—each other. There is a risk of conflict and muddle.

    Paying its dues

    Ant’s final hurdle is that foreign governments may not like Chinese firms having a big role in their financial systems. America’s national-security review panel, known as CFIUS, is looking at the MoneyGram deal. On economic grounds they should welcome Ant, so that it can disrupt the bloated credit-card industry. Visa and MasterCard extract over 0.10 cents of net income for every dollar of payments. Ant takes a smaller cut, of less than 0.03 cents.

    China’s financial system is isolated from the rest of the world. Ant has evolved in a distinct—and more efficient—way. The task now is to persuade other countries that its approach is safe, transparent and free from government interference. It had better hurry up. Sooner or later Silicon Valley’s giants will catch up.

    https://www.economist.com/news/busin...ts-giant-keeps

  5. #5
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    Spotlight: China's mobile payment at world's fingertips

    Yang Yi | Xinhua
    2017-09-01

    ...

    SERVING CHINESE ABROAD

    China's mobile payment service took its first step toward global market in 2008 by supporting cross-border in-store payment, and has since been venturing out to overseas market to facilitate Chinese travelers' experience abroad.

    Alipay now partners with more than 120,000 businesses covering catering services, supermarkets, convenient stores, duty free shops, airports, department stores and theme parks in 27 countries and regions in Asia, Europe, America, and even the Arctic area.

    "Alipay is a really easy and convenient payment method for Chinese customers. When they come to store and they realize that we accept Alipay, they're presently surprised and they're quite excited," said Hannah Jackson, Business Development Project Manager of the Body Shop in London.

    Rita Liu, head of Alipay EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), pointed out that Alipay also serves as a marketing platform for overseas businesses targeting Chinese consumers.

    "For example, Chinese tourists in London can browse through local commercial areas and recommended shops on the app, and receive discounts and coupon information," Liu said.

    Above all of these, Alipay squeezes margins to provide favorable exchange rates to its 520 million users, she added.

    "Chinese people have strong purchasing power, and it will continue increasing with the rise of the middle class," she said. "Foreign businesses value Chinese customers and see the opportunity, and that's why we are pushing global outreach as our priority."

    Chinese people's top shopping destinations include South Korea, Thailand, Japan, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, to name a few. Similarly, Wechat pay serves Chinese people in a dozen countries and regions, and processes payments in more than 10 foreign currencies.

    The layout of mobile payment services overseas resembles a sophisticated ecosystem, encompassing every stage of outbound travels, from reserving flight tickets and booking hotels, to shopping at airports and commercial areas, dining and travelling in cities.

    "Our vision is to realize a digital lifestyle. We believe that people' s payment and consumption habits will be more digital-leaning in the future," Rita Liu said.

    PayTM

    Before strolling on the streets of the Chinese city of Hangzhou in early 2016, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of Indian e-commerce company PayTM, never thought that cryptic QR codes prevalent in China could solve a problem that had troubled his company.

    The company needed abundant bar code scanners to promote mobile payment in India at the time, but quickly adopted the Chinese way of printing QR codes on paper to reduce cost and funding risks after Sharma's trip.

    PayTM only had less than 30 million users by February 2015, and now the number rocketed to 220 million, making it India's top mobile wallet and the third largest in the world, exceeding Paypal.

    Behind its success stands Ant Financial, who partnered with PayTM since 2015.

    Ant Financial sent technical staff to India to help PayTM engineers build a localized mobile payment platform, exporting cutting-edge technologies in risk control, cheat-proof and anti-money laundering systems for mobile payment.

    Sharma said years ago people would say China learnt from the Silicon Valley. Now, the Silicon is learning from China on its advanced digital technologies.

    Inspired by Alipay, PayTM discovered local features. People use the app to pay for rides on Tuktuk, a commonly used motor tricycle service, scan codes on posters to buy Bollywood movie tickets, and scan codes on merit boxes in temples to donate.

    Technical and business output of such can also be found in Wechat Pay, as it partners with PayU, one of India's largest mobile payment providers.

    Similar moves go beyond India into markets having huge demand for mobile payment, with Ascend Money in Thailand, Mynt in the Philippines, Emtek in Indonesia, Kakao in South Korea and others forming partnerships with their Chinese models.

    "Forming partnership is our core strategy, because our partners know local businesses and market best," said Rita Liu.

    Different regions may not at the same pace in adopting mobile payment, as Liu sees it, but China's marveling digital revolution will be recognized more in the long run.

    "We believe mobile payment is an irresistible trend in the world at large, but changes need time," she said.

    http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/20..._136574152.htm

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  8. #8
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    China’s mobile payment systems put to the test on a cash-free day out in Shenzhen










    Armed with a Chinese bank account, some ID and a smartphone, we test out the city’s cashless system, taking cabs, visiting markets, eating in a restaurant and using mall toilets using WeChat Pay and Alipay mobile payment systems

    Rachel Cheung
    02 September, 2017

    Two yuan (30 US cents, HK$2.35) for a SIM card with one gigabyte of data. “It’s a really good deal,” the salesman reassures us. We are in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen and about to spend a day there without a cent in hard cash. But first, we need that mobile data – an absolute essential, second only to a smartphone.

    “Later you can just top it up online,” the salesman adds. I hand him two crumpled one yuan banknotes to pay for the SIM card. That is the last time I will use cash during my time in the city, a hotbed of innovation nicknamed China’s Silicon Valley.

    With more people opting to pay for goods and services using their smartphones, the idea of a cashless society has become a hot topic. But how do mobile payments work in reality?

    I had already made an earlier visit to the city to open a Chinese bank account. Now that I’m back, I need to set up phone “e-wallets” for China’s two most popular mobile payment systems (MPS): WeChat Pay, owned by Tencent, and Alipay, owned by the Alibaba Group (which also owns the South China Morning Post).

    The Chinese government enforces real-name registration, so I must verify my identity using an official document – in this case, my home return permit – and link the e-wallet to my new bank account. The staff at the bank where I set up my account complete the entire activation process for me, making things a lot easier.

    The first challenge is a short taxi ride. After arriving at our destination, the driver pulls up, asks whether I want to pay through Alipay or WeChat Pay, then calls up the relevant QR code on his phone. I use the scanning app on my phone to read his code, type in the fare, and it’s done.

    (continua)
    Última edição por 5ms; 02-09-2017 às 12:06.

  9. #9
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    We head to Dong Men Ding Plaza, a three-storey mall filled with stalls selling street food: rice-stuffed chicken wings, grilled skewers, boiled crayfish, crabs, you name it. Here, cash used to be king, but no longer.

    It is still early, and the stalls are just opening. We see that some vendors place their QR codes on the counters, others stick them on the wall, or wear them as a badge on their chests. Transactions are completed with a few taps on the phone, and even the elderly vendors have got on the bandwagon.

    I’m eager to try it myself, but then I notice a cleaner picking dead cockroaches off the floor using her bare hands so decide to spend my money somewhere else.

    I head over to Sun Square, a deluxe shopping mall next door where a convenience store, hair salon and supermarkets all accept mobile payments, as do unmanned vending machines and mini karaoke booths.

    We go to a high-end restaurant for lunch. The waiter points to the QR code on the corner of the table and says “the menu is here”. We scan the code to open the menu digitally on our phones, then use them to place our orders. At the end of the meal, we pay the bill through our devices and see ourselves out. No fuss.

    Besides taxis, we see MPS also being gradually rolled out across all forms of public transport in Shenzhen. In July this year,four bus routes began accepting mobile payments. For the subway system, most passengers still use TransCard – the Shenzhen version of Hong Kong’s Octopus prepaid smart card ; however, the card can be topped up through both the Alipay and WeChat Pay apps. For some services, such as renting a bicycle from a bike-sharing scheme, paying digitally is the only option.

    There are some drawbacks to MPS, though. There are glitches. At a gaming arcade we visit, there is a discount on tokens bought using Alipay. But when we scan the QR code at the token booth, an error message keeps popping up. A member of staff at the arcade, wearing a vest bearing the name Alipay, merely shrugs. We call Alipay’s customer services hotline for help, only to be told that our account should be working fine.

    We use the WeChat Pay app to scan the QR codes on the individual gaming machines. This takes us to the arcade’s webpage, where we finally buy a “bag” of digital tokens. But given how confusing its webpage is, and the constant pop-up ads, I begin to wish I could get my hands on some good old-fashioned physical tokens.

    Tourists will also face problems with MPS because of the mandatory linking of the e-wallet to a local bank account. This is going to become even tougher now it is the preferred method of payment for most stores and restaurants in Shenzhen, and it is only going to become more widespread throughout the country.

    That means it is difficult to get around, eat and shop unless you have a local tagging along who has access to the payment apps. “If I want to order a Didi [taxi], I can’t,” says Kelechie Emetuche, an American university student who spent the summer in Zhejiang province. To make matters worse, “all the apps I usually use to help navigate, such as Google, are blocked in China”, she says.

    But for locals, Alipay and WeChat Pay are not only transforming how people make transactions, but also how they manage their lives. “Initially, I only used Alipay for shopping on Taobao. But now its usage has really spread and it pervades all parts of daily life,” says Yeung Ching-ching, a Shenzhen resident, who uses the app to order food deliveries, buy tickets for cinemas and flights, and to change foreign currencies. (Alipay even has an in-app feature to book a doctor’s appointment.)

    Yeung has also joined Sesame Credit, a credit-scoring service for consumers provided by Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial. She finds herself spending more money using Alipay to obtain a higher credit score, which, in return, provides her with bigger discounts and other benefits.

    The convenience of MPS may also come at a cost in terms of privacy, which is often overlooked by users. The systems process enormous amounts of personal information, not just revealing the user’s consumption habits, but also their geolocation, financial records and even medical history.

    “The data trail left by users’ transactions at home and abroad can paint a finely detailed portrait of how they spend their money and time. The extent to which Alipay shares such data with the Chinese government is troublingly unclear in light of the wealth of citizens’ data the company has acquired,” write cyber researchers with Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs in a case study on Alipay.

    “How long will they retain the data, whether the data will be shared with third parties or with whom – none of these are disclosed,” says Eric Fan Kin-man, the convener of information security of the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation.

    Hong Kong has privacy laws to protect the personal information of residents collected by mobile apps, preventing the data from being shared with third parties without the consent of the users or obtained by law enforcement agencies without the issue of a court order. In China, where there is no comprehensive data protection law, such rules do not apply.

    It is therefore unclear under what circumstances the data collected by MPS will be shared with law enforcement agencies. And since neither Alipay nor WeChat Pay publish transparency reports, it is not known how many requests for data have they received from the government nor how many have they acceded to.

    “We will not share any users’ information with third parties without the consent of users,” says a spokesman from Ant Financial Services Group, adding that third parties include other subsidiaries of the Alibaba group.

    Users do not seem to be overly concerned. “They collect big data, just like many music-streaming apps recommend playlists according to what you usually listen to. I did not consider whether they would be using the information for other purposes,” says Yeung. “Alipay is just like a bank, which also holds a lot of information about our consumption patterns.”

    Meanwhile, back on my cashless challenge in Shenzhen, I discover another flaw in mobile payment systems. Outside the toilets in a shopping mall, I’m perplexed to see that my phone isn’t getting a signal. That means I can’t buy a pack of toilet paper from the vending machine, which accepts only digital payments.

    (continua)

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    (continua)

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