US-owned Mastercard and Visa bought facial recognition technology from a Japanese company that obtained it from a blacklisted Chinese firm, creating potential geopolitical headaches for owner SoftBank.
Japan Computer Vision (JCV), owned by SoftBank Group’s wireless unit, has expanded in recent years with key deals.
But its surge faces risks as the facial recognition technology it offers uses intellectual property from SenseTime Group, a Chinese firm blacklisted by the US over human rights concerns.
The JCV-SenseTime partnership highlights SoftBank’s difficult balancing act as boss Masayoshi Son tries to position his conglomerate as a neutral player even while tensions mount between two key markets, the United States and China.
SenseTime To Strengthen Partnership With JCV
JCV said it keeps SenseTime and the credit card companies at arm’s length – the Chinese firm is a technology partner with no access to Mastercard’s and Visa’s systems or data.
SenseTime said it aims to strengthen the partnership with JCV, which it believes will benefit businesses, and that the company has established an ethics council to ensure standards.
JCV said its facial recognition technology is audited by a third party, Israeli cybersecurity startup CYE, to check for risk of data leakage and the company asks users to opt in to pay-by-face systems and allows them to opt back out.
Mastercard said all of its biometric-checkout programme partners must adhere to European Union standards of data protection.
Visa said it is working to define the use of biometrics in payments and believes such technology can help ensure a secure system.
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell