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China fights toilet paper theft with facial recognition technology


China has found an effective way to wipe out the problem of toilet paper theft. Local authorities in Beijing, have installed high-tech facial scanners to stop people from stealing toilet paper in public washrooms.

At popular tourist attraction, temple of heaven in Beijing, users must stand for three seconds in front of a camera-equipped dispenser in order to receive a two-foot section of bathroom tissue.

The $1,000 machine will not dispense any more to the same user for the next nine minutes. The unusual restriction aims to “to cope with the behavior of taking public toilet paper home which is theft and abuse of public resource,” a park manager told NBC News.

After providing toilet paper for free for 10 years, “we decided to use face recognition technology as our latest measure to curb excessive paper use which affects the interests of other users,” added the official, who gave his family name as Xing.

Toilet paper is not readily available in most public bathrooms in China. Most of the people who take toilet paper home are “middle-aged and old people, who come to the park regularly,” according to Xing.

The machine has provoked a debate on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblogging platform, with one user commenting: “How pathetic. Why do we need to be supervised on EVERYTHING!”

If we concerns about privacy issues, Xing stated,”we won’t be using the facial images for other purposes,”. Images of users will be “automatically deleted after nine minutes,” said Lei Zhenshan, marketing director of the Shenzhen-based device manufacturer.