Soon that little camera above the screen on your local 7-Eleven’s ATM won’t just be for peace of mind. According to an article published earlier this week by The Yomiuri Shimbun, starting in fall 2019 the convenience store giant’s banking arm Seven Bank will install new machines that can recognize your face. The new technology will enable customers to open a 7-Eleven bank account on the spot.
Currently, opening an account requires applicants to fill out a form online but mail a hard copy of their identification to the bank headquarters. With this new system, a high-resolution camera will compare the face of the person with their scanned photo ID at ATMs to achieve the same level of security without the hassle. Seven Bank has not yet confirmed if the initial part of the application process would still have to be done online.
Facial recognition is nothing new to 7-Eleven — they caused something of a stir last year when they announced plans to use the technology in Thailand. There, the purpose was to “identify loyal customers, analyze customer traffic and monitor stock levels of products.”
Here in Japan, at least, the usage is set to be more limited and have less of the dystopian Big Brother is Watching You/Black Mirror is real now-feel.
Reactions so far are mixed
Reactions online, as one might expect, vary.
Some called the prospect “ground-breaking,” although since the technology will only affect the ability to open accounts rather than use them, this sense of awe might be limited in practice. As one user observed dryly (or is that bitterly?), “I already have an account.”
Others worried that the system could leave one open to identity theft. Twitter user @k t k c m was also concerned that this could lead to facial recognition technology spreading to other areas of public life, especially with the Olympics on the horizon.
— ｋｔｃｋｍ (@ktckm4649) January 7, 2019
Raising the stakes
There is also the question of how much involvement the store staff might have in the process. Opinion is divided as to whether this could improve security or instead vest a store clerk with power over one’s identity. That said, for those of us who have a local konbini into which we occasionally stumble in the small hours, the bond of trust between customer and exhausted arubaito (part-time) worker probably already has higher stakes than deciding who to bank with.
There is, of course, the opposing worry that this might prevent a person from lending their card to a family member or trusted friend in emergencies. However, it looks like the facial scanning itself will only take place when opening an account, rather than during all interactions with the machine.
A writer from anime and gaming blog jin115.com seems to have done enough online dating to know where this could go:
“Picture the scene: you sign up for a new bank account, only to turn up later at your local 7-11 and the clerk finds you rather less attractive than your original photo suggested. ‘What a blow that would be,'” they say.
If their ASCII art above is a true representation of themselves though, I think they’ve got bigger problems than our 3D conceptions of beauty.
Seven Bank plans to have “thousands of machines installed in metropolitan areas” by summer of 2020. Instantly openable bank accounts could make an interesting proposition for those who find themselves in Japan for a sporting event we heard is happening that year.
Clearly not wanting to limit themselves merely to the purview of one of Japan’s biggest convenience stores, Seven Bank is said to be making the technology compatible with other regional and online-only banks in Japan, as well as their own.
That said, given that some 7-Eleven ATMs are still giving out Showa-era banknotes as this Twitter user below found out, we may be waiting a little while for the technology to spread nationwide.
Do you have a Seven Bank account? What do you think about 7-Eleven installing facial recognition technology into its ATMs? Let us know in the comments!