Alipay Adds Beauty Filters to Its Facial-Recognition Payments

The tech giant is giving the beauty-obsessed Chinese market exactly what they want.
Photo by Khalil Benihoud on Unsplash

Facial recognition payments may be an impressive technological feat, but users in China have one complaint: they make them look ugly.

Alipay, the fintech arm of tech giant Alibaba, has taken these concerns to heart.

On July 2, they announced that beauty filters will soon be introduced to payment systems at retail locations across the country. Users will see their filtered selves at the digital till during transactions in a week.


Alipay, which has over a billion users today, took to their official account on Weibo to say, “I have noticed you guys think I made you look ugly. We are going to make you look even prettier than with a beauty camera. I bet you’ll be impressed.”

This new feature comes by popular demand. A survey found that 60 percent of respondents think they look uglier in the payment cameras than regular cameras. Over 40,000 people were surveyed.

The obsession with filters speaks to a greater fascination: that of China and the beauty industry. Since 2014, the cosmetics industry has grown over 21 percent. Beauty-obsessed consumers have transformed the playing field of China’s economy, with more services catering to those looking for perfection. Alipay's new feature is just one more step in that direction.

Using facial recognition is not new in the country. The government has reportedly used such technology for years, and for a number of purposes. Face scanners, for example, are already being used to send jaywalkers fines. Facial recognition cameras are also making sure children are paying attention in class. Scanning systems at a KFC in Beijing are telling customers what to order.

However convenient it may be, the technology has been adopted by the government for a far graver purpose. More recently – and seriously – facial scanning is heavily contributing to the persecution of the Uigur population.