Money: Businessman with Beijing ties looks to bring face-recognition tech to Canadian stores - - PressFrom - Canada
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Money Businessman with Beijing ties looks to bring face-recognition tech to Canadian stores

17:10  13 november  2019
17:10  13 november  2019 Source:   nationalpost.com

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Share this story. Businessman with Beijing ties looks to bring use of facial recognition systems, a Toronto-area businessman with close ties to Beijing is looking to is looking at implementing Chinese-developed facial - recognition technology at his stores , raising human-rights and privacy

Share this story. Businessman with Beijing ties looks to bring a Toronto-area businessman with close ties to Beijing is looking to implement the technology in Canada , prompting concern from As honorary chair of the Confederation of Toronto Chinese Canadian Organizations, Wei is a longtime

a close up of a person wearing a mask: The payment systems capture an image of the shopper’s face which is then linked to his or her account. © Getty Images The payment systems capture an image of the shopper’s face which is then linked to his or her account.

As a rare lawsuit pushes back against China’s ubiquitous use of facial recognition systems, a Toronto-area businessman with close ties to Beijing is looking to implement the technology in Canada, prompting concern from privacy and human-rights activists.

Wei Chengyi, owner of the Foody Mart grocery chain, confirmed the company is considering introducing payment by Chinese-made facial recognition devices at its stores in Ontario and B.C., and suggests the firm is just moving with the times.

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Businessman with Beijing ties looks to bring face - recognition tech to Canadian stores . More deaths, fewer joint replacements, huge costs This Week's Flyers. Comments. Postmedia is pleased to bring you a new commenting experience. We are committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum

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The payment systems capture an image of the shopper’s face which is then linked to his or her account, enabling the person to make a purchase simply by looking into a camera — no card, cash or phone needed. It could be the first such use of the technology by a North American retailer.

Foody Mart is planning to buy the system from SnapPay, a Toronto firm that distributes Chinese payment gear from tech giants Tencent and Alibaba, Ryan Li, another company executive, told Yahoo Finance recently.

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SnapPay told the news site it would deliver the system by early next year.

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“If it has use in the market, our company will use it,” Wei told the National Post in a brief response to several written questions. “Because society moves forward and we will follow it. “

Asked about whether his connections to China should be cause for concern, he said “everything … you’ve heard is nonsense.”

As honorary chair of the Confederation of Toronto Chinese Canadian Organizations, Wei is a longtime friend of China’s government.

a group of people standing in front of a store:  Wei Chengyi, standing, owner of the Foody Mart grocery chain, at an event honouring Chinese Consul General Han Tao, to his left. Wei’s company is looking at implementing Chinese-developed facial-recognition technology at his stores, raising human-rights and privacy concerns. Wei Chengyi, standing, owner of the Foody Mart grocery chain, at an event honouring Chinese Consul General Han Tao, to his left. Wei’s company is looking at implementing Chinese-developed facial-recognition technology at his stores, raising human-rights and privacy concerns.

The Confederation has worked with the local Chinese consulate to promote Beijing’s stance on Tibet , try to bring its Confucius Institute to Toronto schools and recently celebrate the 70 th anniversary of the People’s Republic. Beijing’s Overseas Chinese Affairs Office praised the group on its website.

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Earlier this year, Wei shook hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping at an event in Beijing. The editor of a newspaper he owned said she was fired in 2015 for running a column critical of an Ontario politician with ties to Beijing.

In China, facial recognition has become a popular retail tool, but is also at the heart of a growing digital surveillance apparatus. It’s used for everything from buying KFC chicken to naming and shaming jaywalkers, and tracking the country’s persecuted Muslim Uyghur minority.

This week, a Chinese law professor took the unusual step in a state that brooks little dissent of suing a zoo in the city of Hangzhou for requiring members to use facial recognition to get into the facility.

Human-rights advocates say they’re worried that a pro-China entrepreneur is looking to bring the technology to Canada.

“Perhaps Mainland Chinese immigrants are attuned to this kind of payment, but I smell trouble ahead,” said Cheuk Kwan of the Toronto Association for Democracy in China. “I don’t want to sound alarmist, but this is another insidious and on-the-surface-innocent way China is slowly encroaching on our society.”

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China uses facial recognition to identify Uyghurs in Xinjiang province and elsewhere as part of a “digital gulag” blanketing the persecuted Muslim minority, noted Mehmet Tohti, founder of the Uyghur Canadian Society.

“Canada should have strong skepticism on any move initiated from CCP (Chinese Communist Party) influence under the guise of high-tech investment or business innovation,” he said via email. “It is not about refusing technological advantages, it is about the closure of our data to Chinese control.”

But SnapPay says it’s all about making the retail experience easier.

“By enabling consumers to pay with their face, North American merchants, particularly those with self-service kiosks, are providing an unprecedented level of convenience and speed in the checkout process,” SnapPay founder Spencer Xu said in a news release last month.

A company spokesman was not available for comment and the release did not name the source of the hardware it will distribute here. But SnapPay’s website says it specializes in bringing to North America retail payment systems Alipay, part of the Alibaba Group, and WeChat Pay, an offshoot of the WeChat messaging app.

Both AliPay and WeChat Pay introduced facial recognition payment systems this year. The SnapPay release did say it would modify the system for the local market.

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Kwan noted that Chinese security agencies routinely monitor communication on WeChat.

Privacy guru Ann Cavoukian said facial recognition is generally a worrying development, but she has specific concerns about biometric information being fed into a China-linked payment system.

“This is speculation on my part, but I think virtually all tech coming from China has some kind of back door, a way back to China,” she said. “The data will somehow be connected back to China.”

Regardless of any such foreign link, the technology presents a raft of risks to consumers, not least because it has often proven to be inaccurate, said Brenda McPhail, director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s Privacy, Technology and Surveillance Project.

Among the privacy fears, a store using it could conceivably turn over its face database to police to help identify shoplifters, only for the data to be incorporated into law-enforcement computers, she said. The association is calling for a moratorium on its use in Canada until such issues can be thoroughly canvassed.

“It’s simply asking too much of people to trade their facial image, their deeply personal biometric … to buy a box of cereal."

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