August 22, 2019
Latest News

The financial-risk secrets that may be hidden in our faces

Shanghai (China), Jun 11 (efe-epa).- What does your face reveal about how big of a financial risk you are, asked Dow Jones in a report made available to EFE on Tuesday.

One of the world's largest insurers thinks the answer is quite a bit. It is using facial-recognition technology on potential customers as part of its efforts to assess risk when it sells them financial products

Ping An Insurance Group Co., China's largest insurer and one of the country's largest financial conglomerates, routinely scans the faces of customers and its own agents to verify their identities or examine their expressions for clues about their truthfulness.

Since 2016, the company has used its proprietary technology to screen individuals applying for loans at its consumer-finance arm.

"Micro expressions," or brief, small and often involuntary movements on people's faces, are one area of focus the company has been analyzing.

The efforts are a reflection of what's going on throughout China, where facial-recognition technology has become a feature of daily life.

Unfettered by regulations or privacy concerns, Chinese authorities use it on public streets, subway stations, at airports and at border controls.

Chinese insurance companies may face fewer privacy concerns from consumers, compared with their Western counterparts, says Tjun Tang, a Boston Consulting Group senior partner in Hong Kong, though he adds that Chinese consumers are becoming more concerned about privacy in recent years. "If the consumers are willing to share the data, that's helping a lot," he says. "It allows machines to learn."

Ping An uses its facial-recognition technology mainly to verify customers' identities. When people open accounts with the insurer, they are often asked to submit images of their identity cards and complete a series of tasks including opening their mouths and blinking when they use the company's facial-recognition program for the first time.

After setting up the accounts, customers can purchase some life- and health-insurance products after scanning their faces with their smartphones.

They can also connect directly with insurance agents in video meetings or submit claims after Ping An's software recognizes their faces.

Shi Haojing, a 28-year-old airport worker in Shanghai, says she scans her face with her smartphone camera when she needs to speak with an insurance agent and collect, or make payments, on her Ping An policies.

"It is good that things can be done without leaving home," she says. "Everyone is getting lazier."

Ping An also uses the technology in its insurance business to gauge customers' health. In one new application, facial scans are used to estimate the body-mass index, or BMI, of customers who want to purchase a policy that makes lump-sum payouts of up to one million yuan (about $145,000) when they are diagnosed with any of 100 critical diseases.

Policyholders get discounts on their monthly premiums based on how much body fat they have, as calculated by the scan. Individuals judged to have a BMI under 30 can receive a monthly discount of 6 yuan (about $0.87) on the product, which the company sells at a starting price of 30 yuan a month. A BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.

"Just the face itself contains a wealth of information about an individual's health," says Michael Powers, a professor of risk mathematics at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

It may be possible to glean from a person's face whether the individual is a smoker, for example, he says.

But such use of facial-recognition technology hasn't yet been commercialized widely, in part because there are concerns it could be used to discriminate against some groups of people.

Some critics say the technology isn't really being used to set prices for different groups but instead is a kind of marketing tool for the company to generate attention and make consumers more familiar with AI.

Cliff Sheng, a Hong Kong-based partner at consulting firm Oliver Wyman who has closely studied uses of technology by Chinese insurance companies, argues that there are more reliable ways than facial recognition to acquire users' BMI.

However, Sheng does say he thinks that the technology can be useful to insurers as a marketing tool because it gets people's attention.

A spokesperson for Ping An says that its BMI-measuring feature using facial recognition is provided to the consumers as "a benefit," and that its underwriting process takes into account a variety of other factors and data points.

In its lending business, meanwhile, Ping An says it uses its technology to analyze the faces of loan applicants in real time, searching for "micro-expressions" that reveal their emotional and psychological state.

Such expressions typically occur within fractions of seconds and are hard for people to control, and loan officers make more accurate judgments on the applicants' credibility based on this information, according to an article posted by Ping An on its official WeChat social-media account in China last year.

For large loans, applicants often have to answer questions in an online video meeting that typically lasts 10 to 15 minutes.

Ping An records and analyzes how the applicant answers questions, and looks for signs of eye-shifting or other suspicious behavior, which would be flagged by its system.

Ping An in January said it has made more than 500 billion yuan worth of loans with the help of its micro-expression technology. It also said the technology has helped shorten its average loan-approval times to two hours from five days.

dj/hh

News history
Italy's president gives parties more time to form gov't

Rome, Aug 22 (efe-epa).- President Sergio Mattarella said Thursday that he will give Italy's political parties until early next week to try to form a new...

4 dead, 100-plus injured by lightning in Poland

Warsaw, Aug 22 (efe-epa).- Four people, including two children, died on Thursday and more than 100 were injured by lightning strikes during a thunderstorm...

Macron: Irish backstop indispensable

Paris, Aug 22 (efe-epa) .- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson met Emmanuel Macron in France Thursday for Brexit talks during which the French President...

Seoul believes US, North Korea talks will soon resume

Seoul, Aug 22 (efe-epa).- Seoul on Thursday said negotiations between North Korea and the United States may resume soon, following a visit to South Korea by...

North Korea not interested in talks amid 'military threats'

Seoul, Aug 22 (efe-epa).- North Korea said Thursday that it was not interested in dialog while the United States and South Korea were engaged in "military...

Hong Kong gov't: protesters ad campaign gross exaggeration

Hong Kong, Aug 22 (efe-epa).- A campaign launched by Hong Kong activists to rally international support for anti-Beijing protests that have gripped the city...

Brazil's president doubles down on criticism of NGOs operating in Amazon

Brasilia, Aug 22 (efe-epa).- President Jair Bolsonaro said Thursday that while he did not have evidence that non-governmental organizations were behind the...

Giraffes get protection on international trade for 1st time

Geneva, Aug 22 (efe-epa).- Giraffes were added on Thursday for the first time to a protection mechanism that restricts their international trade in response...

Protect Paradise, the hope to end plastic pollution in Venezuelan beaches

By H├ęctor Pereira

Still unsafe for Rohingyas to return to Myanmar, Amnesty warns

Bangkok Desk, Aug 22 (efe-epa).- Human rights organization Amnesty International warned Thursday that it was still unsafe for members of the Rohingya ethnic...

Rohingyas refuse to return to Myanmar

Teknaf, Bangladesh, Aug 22 (EFE).- A second attempt to repatriate some 1,037 Rohingya refugee families who live in Bangladesh following a mass exodus from...

Police killings of civilians reaches new heights in Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug 21 (efe-epa).- Rio de Janeiro recorded a 49 percent increase in civilian deaths at the hands of police in July compared to the...

Nur-Sultan, Aug 21 (EFE).- The foreign ministers of the five Central Asian countries met here Wednesday with US Under Secretary of State David Hale to...

Putin says Russia must respond to threat of new US missile

Helsinki, Aug 21 (efe-epa).- Russian President Vladimir Putin made an appeal here Wednesday to the United States to resume arms-control negotiations even as...

Czechs denounce current leaders during rally to mark 1969 crackdown

Prague, Aug 21 (efe-epa).- Tens of thousands of Czechs held a demonstration here Wednesday in which they remembered countrymen who were killed or injured on...

Merkel, Johnson maintain stances on Brexit but say exit accord possible

Berlin, Aug 21 (efe-epa).- German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday maintained their respective stances on...

Children's chorus revitalizing indigenous language in Panamanian capital

By Maria M. Mur

Brazil's president points finger at NGOs in Amazon fires

Brasilia, Aug 21 (efe-epa).- President Jair Bolsonaro insinuated on Wednesday that non-governmental organizations may be behind the fires in the Amazon, the...

Kathmandu, Aug 21 (EFE).- Nepal will make the Everest region a plastic-free zone by 2020 by banning single-use plastics, a move that will curb excessive...

Death toll in Kabul wedding bombing rises to 80

Kabul, Aug 21 (efe-epa).- The death toll following an attack on a wedding party in the Afghan capital Kabul has gone up to 80, police sources said on...

Bilateral deal reached on Mexican tomato exports to US

Mexico City, Aug 21 (efe-epa).- A bilateral agreement has been reached on Mexican tomato exports that will bring a halt to a United States anti-dumping...

Hong Kong activists demand release of arrested UK consulate worker

Hong Kong, Aug 21 (efe-epa).- A group of Hong Kong citizens demonstrated outside the British Consulate Wednesday afternoon urging the British government to...

Nepal bans single-use plastics in Everest region

Kathmandu, Aug 21 (efe-epa).- Nepal will make the Everest region a plastic-free zone by 2020 by banning single-use plastics, a move that will curb excessive...

Fresh attempt to repatriate Rohingya refugees evokes skepticism

By Carlos Sardina Galache

I agree Welcome to news4europe.eu. We use cookies to improve your online experience. Find out more.