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China is fighting toilet paper thieves with facial recognition software

China is fighting toilet paper thieves with facial recognition software

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Photo by VCG / VCG via Getty Images

Biometric authentication is moving from phones to laptops and onward to... public bathrooms. Chinese authorities in Beijing are now combating a toilet paper stealing epidemic by locking the supplies away behind a dispenser powered by facial recognition software, according to a report from The New York Times.

TP is not free

The unorthodox method ensures that the public bathroom at the Temple of Heaven Park disposes only a small amount of paper — approximately two feet in length — for each person once every nine minutes, following an initial face scan to store the identity of the user. The change marks the first time in a decade the park has taken such drastic measures to reduce its chronic toilet paper theft.

Naturally, this has left some residents quite upset. It’s apparently not uncommon for some people in China to use public facilities as a way to stock up on free supplies like hand soap, paper towels, and toilet paper. According to The New York Times, some facilities in Shanghai and other Chinese cities decline to provide any toilet paper whatsoever for this reason, while others provide only a common roll for everyone to use.

But it’s not just the free TP crackdown that has some residents mad. No, it’s the amount of toilet paper being dispensed, or rather the lack thereof. “The sheets are too short,” Wang Jianquan, a retired mall manager, told the paper. The devices that dispense the paper cost $750, the report says, and may start popping up throughout the entire park if the initial test run proves effective.