Public toilets in Chinese capital have started using facial recognition technology to stop toilet paper theft after it became rampant. At the Temple of Heaven, one of the capital’s busiest tourist sites and a former hotbed of toilet paper kleptomania, a user in need of tissue paper must stand in front of a wall-mounted machine with a high definition camera, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.
The device’s software remembers recent faces, and if the same person reappears within a certain period, it refuses to activate the automatic roller. For years, many residents have been taking reams of paper from public toilets for use at home.
Recently, Chinese media outlets investigated the phenomenon and found most of the tissue bandits were senior citizens. Such behaviour has placed a considerable financial burden on public toilet management. Sometimes a newly replenished roll can disappear within a minute, leaving other users an empty holder.
The Temple of Heaven management said they also provided old-school rollers because not all visitors were accepting the new technology. It prompted concerns about infringement of privacy, and the face recognition processing time, which is only meant to be three seconds, sometimes takes more than a minute, which is an added frustration for someone who is in a hurry to use the loo. The facial camera required a user to remove their hat and sunglasses.
The smart toilet paper machine has prompted quite a discussion on mainland social media. Most people agree that the behaviour should be stopped. But a few said the public shouldn’t get too wound up over the issue.