Years ago, I used to joke in AML training sessions that one day CDD would be obsolete because as soon as a baby was born s/he would be tattooed with an indelible barcode which would be used as proof of identity forever more. The only question remaining was where to put the tattoo… And since then, if find that we are heading that way-ish. Back in January I talked about the Aadhar system introduced in India, whereby you record your fingerprints, iris scan, name, date of birth, address and gender, and in exchange are given a unique twelve-digit number which you can quote to prove that you are you – at the passport office, when collecting your pension, and at the bank, for instance.
And now the Chinese – of course – have gone one better. Earlier this month the Macau government announced that mainland users of UnionPay – China’s only clearing house for bank card transactions – would have to insert their identity cards into ATMs and have their identity verified by facial recognition software in order to be able to withdraw cash. The stated aim is to foil criminals who pay dirty money into banks and then use multiple ATM cards to exceed the withdrawal limits (about £1,120 a day) which were put in place to make this too tedious a laundering mechanism. Macau is a cash jurisdiction, packed to the gunwales with casinos, and mainland Chinese baddies do love to deposit their proceeds of crime into banks back home and then turn up in Macau to withdraw it all and live the high life at the tables. Although the Chinese government tries hard to control capital outflows, casinos in Macau are blossoming and burgeoning, with gaming revenues increasing by about 16% annually. It remains to be seen how the facial recognition software will cope with the variations to expression that come with winning and losing: perhaps the ability to retain a “poker face” will take on even more importance.