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China’s widely used facial recognition software is having trouble identifying people who have had cosmetic surgery. Photo: AFP

Facial recognition technology in China beaten by a nose job

  • Young woman’s appearance altered so drastically system can no longer identify her
  • Despite the inconvenience, she is happy with her new look

A young woman in eastern China found her life turned upside down when plastic surgery altered her appearance so drastically she was banned from online payment gateways and unable to sign in to work.

The woman, who was identified only by the pseudonym Huan Huan, told her local television station on the weekend that her troubles had begun a month before when she had cosmetic surgery on her nose.

The change in her appearance was too much for China’s widely used facial recognition software, which was no longer able to identify Huan Huan, 21, from Wenzhou in Zhejiang province.

Speaking on Wenzhou City Television, Huan said she discovered she had been logged out of the online shopping and payment gateways she used because the secure identification process, backed by facial recognition technology, simply did not know who she was.

China’s face-scan tech now stretches to trash cans and public housing

Huan said her work was also affected as she could no longer sign in and off work by scanning her face. Checking in to hotels and boarding high-speed trains had also become a problem as she had used facial recognition to register on those platforms, the report said.

“After the surgery, there was a big difference. Facial recognition could not recognise her as many key parameters had been altered. So I suggested that she update her ID card [to update her appearance in the system],” her doctor Xu Shuqing said.

Huan did not blame the facial recognition technology for her difficulties, admitting that her “entire face looks very different. Even my mum couldn’t recognise me after the surgery”, she said.

Despite all the trouble of updating her ID and registering her new face on all the online platforms she used, Huan said she was very happy with her new nose.

The growing popularity of cosmetic surgery is proving a challenge for facial recognition technology. In January, another woman, in Urumqi, Xinjiang, failed to pay a fine for a traffic rule violation because her face did not match the one stored in the police system, according to online news video platform Pear Video.

Officers at the police station where the woman tried to pay the fine accused her of using someone else’s identity card, until she admitted she had undergone plastic surgery.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Facial recognition locks out woman after nose job