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Facial recognition appears more and more in headlines and this week is no exception. It’s one emerging technology that pushes lots of buttons at once: privacy, data protection, data permissions, personal freedoms, other legal and human rights. And it’s also worth a lot of money: one study forecasts that the global facial recognition technology market will reach annual revenues of $9.6 billion by the year 2022.

Human rights activists are currently up-in-arms over Thailand’s new telecom policy that all cellphone users in the south of the country must submit pictures for facial-recognition identification or be disconnected. This is a government policy implemented in response to insurgency-related violence that has claimed thousands of lives over the past 15 years in the predominantly Muslim provinces of Muslim Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala.

Government plans to use facial recognition are not limited to security threats in specific regions either. Most governments are either researching, planning or implementing ID and border security related facial recognition initiatives. And some plans are more advanced than others.

In the news this week is Japan’s new security programme to scan the faces of all foreign visitors leaving the country, which will start to be implemented this month. This is one of the security measures being taken in advance of the Olympics and Paralympic games in 2020: a year during which Japan expects to welcome 40 million foreign visitors. So, more than 40 million faces then!

The biggest target for scanning new faces in this week’s news though, is The Philippines government plan to capture 105 million sets of biometrics — including thumbprints, iris scans and face scans — by 2022. That roughly every citizen in the country over 5 years of age (in 2022).

However, as one might expect, China is way ahead in this game. According to some reports, China’s facial recognition database already includes almost all of the country’s 1.4 billion citizens. Multiple facial recognition platforms are also in development that can identify an image from China’s massive facial image database in seconds.

A version of this article was originally published by Carrington Malin in Asia AI News daily email newsletter on 5 July 2019.

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