If paying for something with your smartphone still seems like a strange concept, then news that you'll soon be able to do so with a selfie is likely all the more confusing. Indeed, though, MasterCard is set to roll-out both facial recognition and fingerprint payment authorization.
The announcement follows news that Visa is making it possible to pay for things using in-car apps. Like mobile and in-car payments, selfie- and fingerprint-authorized payments are focused, in part, on providing convenience. In addition, though, they give the perception of security.
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MasterCard's move towards biometric payment follows a study it ran in partnership with Dutch credit card firm International Card Services (ICS). The pilot project was carried out among 750 ABN AMRO cardholders over the course of six months, with participants able to complete online purchases without the need for pin codes, passwords or confirmation codes, instead using fingerprint or facial verification.
Following the pilot, 77 percent of participants indicated that they wanted to continue using a fingerprint and/or facial recognition to complete payments, and nine out of ten indicated that they would like to replace their password with biometric identification definitively. In addition, almost 75 percent believed that biometric payments would decrease fraud.
In a literal sense, of course, a person's face and fingerprints cannot be lost or stolen, meaning they are always with someone when they need to make a payment. While the typical uniqueness of our faces and fingerprints may make them seem inherently secure, however, they are effectively just turned into a password by a computer.
As such, this still means that biometric data is open to being stolen and, what's more, losing it has the potential to be more costly than someone simply finding out a password that can subsequently be changed. There are, therefore, some concerns about biometric payments, although that is not to say such concerns are necessarily insurmountable.
Regardless, MasterCard says the pilot has led to commercial interest from around the world and that it plans to launch the technology in the US, Canada and parts of Europe later this year. Consumers using it will receive a notification on their smartphone when making an online payment asking them to authorize the transaction using their fingerprint or facial recognition.