MasterCard Pilots ‘Selfie’ Online Payments (July 8, 2015)
Biometrics authentication continues to draw interest from some of payments’ biggest players, with MasterCard unveiling a new pilot program that will enable online shoppers to approve purchases with a facial scan. The initiative is starting small, with a sample run of 500 cardholders, according to a report from CNN Money—but the payments network has big plans for the technology, which it says is more secure and easier for customers than using a password. MasterCard told CNN it has partnered with every major smartphone maker to support the service, which creates a pop-up asking for authentication when an online shopper is at the checkout phase. He then is given the option of providing a fingerprint or facial scan, the latter of which requires him to look at his phone’s camera and blink once (to avoid a scammer holding up a still photo of the user). The photo then is converted to a digital code, which is sent to MasterCard for authentication.
While it may seem awkward to older customers to stare into their phones after making a purchase, MasterCard is betting the process will be a hit with younger customers, such as millennials, for whom taking “selfies” is second nature. “The new generation … I think they’ll embrace it,” said Ajay Bhalla, MasterCard’s president of enterprise security.
MasterCard isn’t the only high-profile payments company to see an opportunity in facial authentication. In March, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba demonstrated its “Smile to Pay” service, which is similar to the MasterCard pilot, at a tech conference in Germany. American Express also reportedly is testing facial recognition to authenticate mobile transactions and late last month, Wells Fargo said it would pilot a program that uses a combination of voice and facial recognition to authenticate users of its online services portal for corporate and institutional customers.