Ride-hailing app to implement Chinese facial recognition controls in Brazil

. May 15, 2019
Brazilian taxi app to implement Chinese facial recognition controls

Experts predict that facial recognition will become a USD 9 billion market by 2022. With technologies rapidly becoming more accurate and efficient, detection software is being used all around the world for security and surveillance, often by law enforcement. However, due to dealing with personal information which is particularly intrusive, facial recognition has been subject to plenty of pushback from data privacy advocates.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In Brazil, this debate is still in its adolescence, with sporadic tests being held to varying levels of success. However, with the country&#8217;s <a href="">new Data Protection Law</a> on the horizon, facial recognition technology is sure to play a bigger role in the public debate as the year goes on. In the latest development in the sector, ride-sharing app 99 has announced it will begin using facial detection controls among its drivers, in a bid to increase security.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The company&#8217;s proposal is that whenever one of its drivers initiates the app to begin work, he or she will be solicited to take a selfie. This image would then be crossed with the database of the National Traffic Department (Denatran), which is responsible for controlling drivers&#8217; licenses throughout Brazil.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If the photograph matches, the driver will be allowed to work as normal. The procedure is pitched as a way to ensure that no-one may pose as an accredited 99 driver, therefore increasing the safety of the service. Data privacy advocates, however, are more concerned about where this facial recognition data will be stored.</span></p> <h2>Passed down from parents</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">99 is <a href="">owned by Chinese company Didi Chuxing</a>, which runs China&#8217;s largest ride-sharing app. In 2016, Didi implemented similar facial recognition security controls among its drivers, which were further tightened last year when a 21-year-old woman was murdered by one of the app&#8217;s drivers. Now, Didi Taxi drivers must pass facial recognition checks before starting work each day, as well as additional checks in between rides. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Such uses of facial recognition technology are not at all uncommon in China, which already has well-developed databases to work with. The country&#8217;s most controversial documented use of this software is in the monitoring and detention of Uighur Muslims in the autonomous region of Xinjiang, in western China. Security forces—which claim the minority community poses a &#8220;terrorist threat&#8221;—have used facial recognition to distinguish between Han Chinese and Uighur Muslim physical traits, in what is an example of automatic racial profiling. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There have since been reports of the same technology being requested and utilized in central and eastern regions of China, far from any potential areas of conflict. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">China&#8217;s evidently zealous use of personal data and facial recognition has led to fears that information gathered by Chinese companies abroad could be used for similar purposes. This week, Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun <a href="">pledged to sell gay dating app Grindr</a> by June 2020, due to security fears expressed by the U.S. The app stores sensitive personal information of users, such as location and HIV status.</span></p> <h2>Facial recognition in Brazil</h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The market for facial recognition in Brazil is still in its early stages, but there have been indications that the country will be open to adopting certain uses of the technology, with rising public fears of urban violence.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As we reported in our April 6 </span><b>Weekly Report</b><span style="font-weight: 400;">, Chinese company Huawei tested its facial recognition system during Carnival celebrations in Salvador and Rio de Janeiro this year. The software&#8217;s &#8220;trophy&#8221; was encountering a 19-year-old fugitive in Salvador, who was dressed up as a woman.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Public security is among the biggest concerns of the Brazilian population, so much so that relative outsider Jair Bolsonaro was elected president on a tough-on-crime platform. It is likely that Brazil will be accepting of facial recognition technologies in law enforcement, providing it serves its primary purpose of catching criminals. With legitimate fears of violence pervading the country, a transition to a Chinese model of state surveillance could turn out to be popular.</span></p> <div id="attachment_17445" style="width: 650px" class="wp-caption alignnone"><img aria-describedby="caption-attachment-17445" class="wp-image-17445 size-full" src="" alt="huawei facial recognition" width="640" height="360" /><p id="caption-attachment-17445" class="wp-caption-text">Huawei&#8217;s facial recognition software was presented in Congress</p></div> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So much so that earlier this year, a group of congressmen and senators from Mr. Bolsonaro’s Social Liberal Party (PSL) visited China—with all expenses paid for by Beijing—to learn about the country’s state-of-the-art facial recognition technology. This sparked fury from Olavo de Carvalho, the president’s ideological guru. “[That] would mean handing over information on all people living in Brazil to the Chinese government.” If he is right, drivers of 99 could be the first in Brazil to have their personal data collected by China.

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