Tourists: use your fingerprints to pay (from 2020)

Written by
Kirsty Bouwers

Filed under 'exciting new technology, not quite sure how it’ll work out', the government's latest plan for Tokyo 2020 is to literally let tourists pay with the touch of a finger. Yes, a simple fingerprint will let you shop to your heart's content, with the system even automatically deducting the sales tax for you (damn you non-residents and your duty-free shopping). The thought behind this scheme seems to be that as fingerprints have been taken at arrival for years now, why not make better use of them – and, in the process, increase the revenue generated by tourism. According to the Yomiuri Shimbun, the system will initially be trialled in 300 shops across the country during summer 2016, centred on tourist hotspots like Hakone and Kamakura. The aim is to have nationwide coverage, including Tokyo, up and running by 2020.

The elephant in the room is privacy, of course – an issue many have been concerned with since the recent implementation of the My Number system. In the fingerprint-payment case, your spending habits would literally be recorded and used as data to enhance 'future visitor experiences'. On the other hand, not having to carry around a wallet obviously will reduce the already low chance of petty theft – having your finger stolen is unlikely to happen, unless you’re a yakuza in need of penitence. So far, a similar project has been trialled at the Huis Ten Bosch theme park in Sasebo, near Nagasaki, where visitors have apparently seemed rather pleased with the convenience.

Strangely enough, there's no mention whatsoever of a similar system being rolled out for residents as well. Point and shop – would you be up for it?

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