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Photos fool cigarette age-verification software

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A Japanese reporter has used family photos and magazine cut-outs to fool face-recognition software currently used in some of the country's cigarette vending machines into selling him smokes.

From July, Japan’s set to introduce tough regulations allowing prosecutions to be brought against vending-machine companies whose dispensers sell tobacco to someone under the country’s legal smoking age of 20.

As a result, numerous Japanese cigarette machines already feature facial verification software that aims to cut-down on sales of smokes to minors. One such system, developed by firm Fujitaka, uses a camera built into the machine to snap a picture of the buyer. Software then analyses the person’s face for age identifiers, such as wrinkles around the eyes and sagging skin.

However, a reporter from one Japanese-language newspaper recently tested one such machine in Osaka and found that the machine sold him cigarettes - based on its analysis of a 6in wide photo of the reporter's 50-year-old father.

The reporter also tried the same method on a machine in Kobe and, worryingly, found that it accepted a 3in-wide magazine photo of a 30-year-old female. A 1in-wide photo of a female in her 30s was rejected by the machine.

Fujitaka has admitted that, on occasion, its software could be fooled by photographs. But underage smokers beware, because the firm’s developing more advanced facial recognition software for its machines.

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