Shanghai uses facial recognition to help catch drug offenders

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Shanghai uses facial recognition to help catch drug offenders
Ryan is an editor at TechForge Media with over a decade of experience covering the latest technology and interviewing leading industry figures. He can often be sighted at tech conferences with a strong coffee in one hand and a laptop in the other. If it's geeky, he’s probably into it. Find him on Twitter: @Gadget_Ry

Facial recognition is being used in Shanghai to help catch individuals suspected of abusing pharmaceuticals.

South China Morning Post reports that Shanghai is testing facial recognition terminals in pharmacies that will verify a person’s identity prior to dispensing controlled substances.

Some legal medications can be turned into banned drugs. Cold and allergy medications, for example, often contain ephedrine which is a key component of crystal meth.

Any prescription medication containing ephedrine, psychotropic substances, and/or tranquilisers will be subject to the facial recognition check. Both patients and pharmacists will be checked to prevent any collusion.

China, along with many other countries, is facing an increasing problem with people buying legal medicines in large quantities that can be converted into recreational drugs for selling on the black market. The use of facial recognition is a novel, albeit controversial, method of combating the issue.

The facial recognition terminals have been in testing since November and adopted by 31 healthcare organisations across seven districts so far. Full coverage of Shanghai’s medical premises is expected by the first half of 2021.

Facial recognition is quickly becoming the norm in every part of life in China. The technology is being used to catch and shame jaywalkers, identify criminals, subway rides, and more.

iiMedia Research found that around 118 million people in China signed up for facial recognition-powered payments in 2019, compared to just 61 million in 2018. The report shows how facial recognition is becoming more widely accepted in China.

Many other nations, particularly in the West, are more wary of mass facial recognition deployments. For example, a recent EU document suggested a time-limited ban on the use of facial recognition technology in public spaces of between three to five years to assess the “impacts of this technology and possible risk management measures.”

It’s hard to imagine such initiatives being deployed in such countries without significant outcry but Shanghai’s latest implementation is at least showing how the technology can be used to tackle serious problems like illegal drug sales.

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