Selfies May Soon Be How Consumers Authenticate Their Identity

MasterCard is using facial recognition technology at checkout

MasterCard has just started testing a new program that has consumers verifying their identity online through, well, selfies.

CNN Money reports that the credit card company is experimenting with using facial recognition technology as a next-generation antifraud measure. The selfies? They’re converted into code, which is then scanned for a facial match. 

The company is thinking beyond password protection, which is great—who doesn’t loathe the gargantuan number of passwords we, as modern humans, are required to cart around (both mentally and in our overloaded devices)?

But at this moment in retail, all the big thinkers are diligently working to eradicate so-called friction—basically all the small steps required of a shopper to make a purchase. Is pausing to snap a photo easier than entering a four-digit code? Or safer?

The company seems to think it will at least be a hit with users. “The new generation, which is into selfies…I think they’ll find it cool. They’ll embrace it,” says Ajay Bhalla, who, according to CNN Money, is “in charge of coming up with innovative solutions for MasterCard’s security challenges.”

The company already has something called SecureCode, an extra code consumers can opt to create that they’d then need to key in at checkout to use their card. It was used in 3 billion transactions last year, according to MasterCard.

According to the CNN article, MasterCard is also test-driving iPhone-style fingerprint security software, in an experiment involving 500 customers.

To use both the facial and fingerprint security features, you need to download a certain MasterCard app; a pop-up on your phone will ask you to verify your ID. If you’re using a facial scan, you simply stare at the phone, blink once, and that’s it. The blink is used so thieves can’t just hold up a photo of someone to verify their ID. 

There’s no sending the photo in the traditional sense. The facial recognition scan maps out your face, then converts it to 1s and 0s and transmits that data online to MasterCard. Bhalla told CNN that the company “won’t be able to reconstruct your face, and that the information would transmit securely and remain safe on the company’s computer servers.”

Of course, that’s a point of contention unto itself—most cybersecurity pros like to relegate identifying data to a device not a corporate-owned server. 

(Photo courtesy Pixabay)

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JCK Senior Editor

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