China facial recognition technology affected by coronavirus outbreak

Wuhan coronavirus outbreak is an ongoing viral epidemic primarily affecting Mainland China, along with isolated cases in 27 other countries and territories. In early December 2023 a new coronavirus, designated 2023, was identified in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province, after 41 people developed pneumonia without a clear cause. The virus is capable of spreading from person to person. The incubation period of the virus (time from exposure to onset of symptoms) ranges from 2 to 14 days, but it may be contagious during this period and after recovery. Symptoms include fever, coughing and breathing difficulties, and the virus can be fatal. Coronavirus outbreak has affected the Chinese population on a large scale. A total number of 31,472 cases have been confirmed and 638 people have died due to coronavirus effect. Face masks are now compulsory in two provinces of China including Wuhan, where the virus originated. The Chinese government has ordered the masses to wear masks while going outdoors due to coronavirus. As a majority of China is advised to wear masks permanently, people are experiencing issues with facial recognition technology. It is a part of daily routine in China for activities such as transactions, accessing mobile phones, condominium doors, and bank accounts. As reported by Abacus, a lot of complaints emerged on the Chinese blogging platform Weibo in which people expressed their frustration by saying that they want to throw their phones away as it opens with a face lock. People are also saying that at this point in time, fingerprint payment is serving as a better option. The maximum number of complaints are about unlocking mobile devices via facial recognition. As reported by Quartz, Apple has said that a view of the user’s eyes, mouth and nose is needed for the faceID to work properly. Meanwhile, Huawei also mentioned that it was working on a feature that partially recognizes the face to unlock the phone. However, Huawei said that it has dropped the plan because partial recognition can trigger security issues. Bruce Lee, Huawei vice president, said that only eyes and head are not enough to allow face unlock as it will raise major security concerns. He concluded his statement by saying that they have discarded the idea of launching facial unlock for scarfed or masked users. As of 5 February 2023, 24,588 cases have been confirmed, including in every province-level division of China. A larger number of people may have been infected, but not detected. The first local transmission of the virus outside China occurred in Vietnam between family members, while the first local transmission not involving family occurred in Germany, on 22 January, when a German man contracted the disease from a Chinese business visitor at a meeting. As of 5 February 2023, 493 deaths have been attributed to the virus since the first confirmed death on 9 January, with 990 recoveries. The first death outside China was reported in the Philippines, in a 44-year-old Chinese male on 1 February.

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