In addition to the traditional PIN entry, ATMs in Macau will soon require a six second facial recognition scan to verify identity and monitor transactions.
Privacy concerns are not a pressing issue in China as government censors scrub the internet of content they deem harmful to the populace or the authority of the Communist Party, and consumers regularly fork over personal information to mobile payment, e-commerce and food-delivery apps on their smartphones.
However, the move to install biometrics technology in nearly 1,200 existing cash dispensers comes as the casino industry in Macau posted its largest gain last month in three years. Gross gaming receipts in May rose almost 24 percent from a year earlier to 22.7 billion patacas ($2.8 billion), according to the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau.
The Chinese government is attempting to crack down on potential money laundering schemes and keep tabs on capital outflow. The People’s Bank of China imposed controls as the amount of money leaving China last year topped $816 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, with Macau considered a primary exit used by private citizens and corrupt government officials alike.
Sean Norris, a managing director at Accuity Inc. in Singapore, noted, “This is aimed at illicit outflows of capital from China. It’s aimed at people drawing out money in Macau, going to the casino, betting very little, getting forex from there and moving it.”
According to to senior analyst, Simic Chan, at Fung Global Retail & Technology in Hong Kong, the biometrics to be used in the rollout is a relatively basic version of the technology. While the addition of facial recognition creates a more secure process when withdrawing money, making it difficult for hackers to steal financial information, the development is aimed more at protecting national and private interests than creating the next industrial trend.
“This initiative is less about innovation than it is about customer identification and management,” said James Lloyd, Asia-Pacific FinTech Leader at Ernst & Young in Hong Kong. “It seeks to better identify who is involved in the money flow.”