July 19th, 2019 3.00pm
Gambling addiction awareness is slowly reaching its peak, and a number of land-based casinos are already toying with the idea of introducing the Facial Recognition Technology in order to spot the signs that players are getting themselves into trouble. Macau operators will be the ones to lead the way, and three casinos are already conducting the preliminary tests of the FERET (Facial Recognition Technology) systems.
For the time being, the operators who will push the technology forward are being kept a secret, ensuring that there is no outside interference that would thwart the objectivity of the tests. The data collected during the “experiment” will determine whether or not FERET should become legally required across Macau gambling markets.
Despite the controversy that the subject has spurred, Paul Martins Chan, Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau Director, ensures those who are concerned about the possible invasion of privacy that the testing is conducted in accordance with personal data protection laws. He also underlined that all the equipment used must be approved by the Bureau before being installed and applied.
The Government Is Yet to Decide on the Limits
While the main objective of FERET is to reduce the unwanted effects of gambling, the true potential of the technology is yet to be fully revealed.
In March 2019, it was announced that Japanese pachinko parlors would start taking exclusion requests from family members. FERET is the key to reinforcing the gambling-limitation procedure, especially since the system has already proven its worth as a security measure used in numerous events (such as the ceremony in honour of Emperor’s Akihito 30th anniversary at Tokyo National Theatre). The officials are considering the same technology for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, and the Japanese government is already “eyeing” biometric verification as the next step towards the golden standard of public health.
The Side Effects
Not all are equally thrilled about the prospects of this intervention – in fact, many seem quite alarmed by the nonchalance with which the government and the casino proprietors are granting themselves such liberties. There is absolutely no insurance that the data collected will be used solely for the purpose of protecting the casino patrons and directing them down towards the road of self-recovery.
To some, FERET seems more like a dystopian nightmare than a benevolent protection system. As a consequence, the casino traffic could be significantly reduced, sending the players to illegal gambling dens and creating a more serious issue.
When questioned about the possibility of using the technology to enforce the Law No. 10/2012 amendment (according to which casino employees are not allowed in the casino premises outside the working hours), Chan replied that the matter is under discussion.
“I think it will take time for the parties involved to comprehend the personal data protection law. If possible, at the preliminary stage (the system) will be used on a small scale in a few places. Then we will be able to see how the laws can oversee the use of the equipment”, stated Chan.
Is It a Question of Time before FERET Reaches the UK Casinos?
Despite the strong opposition from the human rights movements, the use of Facial Recognition Technology is currently under judicial review. Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary has supported the trials, defending the decision by emphasizing the role of FERET in fighting against online child abuse.
Liberty, the civil rights group, feels that privacy rights are far more important than the impact of the technology in preventing even the most gruesome online crimes. The activists are stigmatizing Facial Recognition, calling it “discriminatory” and “dangerously” intrusive.
At the moment, there are no mentions of implementing FERET in UK casinos.
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