One of the busiest public bathrooms in Beijing requires people scan their faces in order to get toilet paper because of a shortage of the product.
The city installed the facial recognition toilet paper dispenser specifically because older residents are allegedly stealing large amounts of the toiletry for their own personal use at home, according to The Guardian.
Users of the restroom who need toilet paper must stand in front of an advanced camera for at least three seconds. People must also remove any hats, glasses and other accessories that may block the technology’s view of a person’s unique facial measurements.
Toilet paper seekers are limited to how often they can obtain the hygiene product from the bathroom, and are forced to wait nine minutes before using the machine another time, reports The Guardian.
The implementation of the facial recognition technology accompanies China’s (and particularly Beijing’s) massive surveillance system.
Beijing police says it has more than 46,000 cameras and a team of 4,300 police officers tasked with monitoring live security video across the city, according to China Daily. Law enforcement also reportedly asserts that its system covers 100 percent of the city. (RELATED: Facial Recognition Technology Helps NY Law Enforcement Catch 100 Identity Thieves)
While the bathroom mechanism is not explicitly for general surveillance purposes, how the personal data (like the metrics of their physical characteristics) is used after it’s automatically stored could worry citizens.
“First, is this not a violation of personal privacy? Two, can the data collected be stolen? Three, why are we using this kind of high-level technology to solve simple problems?” said one user on Sina Weibo, a Chinese social media platform. “Does this method even address the root cause of the problem?”
But privacy issues aren’t the only problems with the device. Due to an added step in the standard bathroom process, and reports of software malfunctions, wait times for bathrooms have already increased, according to The Guardian. (RELATED: China Is Winning The Tech Battle In The South China Sea)
In fact, one of the machines reportedly malfunctioned so badly that staff had to manually dole out toilet paper to all bathroom visitors.
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