Mastercard to bring ‘selfie pay’ to Canada this summer

MasterCard will officially be rolling out its biometric payment service, MasterCard Identity Check – a smartphone app which allows users to verify purchases by taking a selfie instead of entering a password – to 14 countries, including Canada, this summer, the company announced this week according to a CBC report.

“We need to be able to trust people online, and the current technology that people were using to do that was not working,” Bob Reany, senior vice president of MasterCard’s identity solutions division, said in a video explaining the technology. “Every human being is frustrated with passwords – they forget their passwords, there’s just way too many of them, there’s too many rules – so we had to come up with some way for people to easily identify themselves in a way that the issuer could verify.”

The service, which MasterCard has tested in app form with nearly 1,000 consumers in the U.S. and Netherlands, requires users to provide a photo of their face when signing up, after which the service measures prominent facial “landmarks” and converts them into an algorithm that can be compared to future pictures. To avoid fooling the app with an existing picture, users must blink while snapping the photo to prove their humanity.

Of course, as the Washington Post’s Andrea Peterson notes in an article regarding the service’s expansion, biometrics carry their own set of risks: many of us have posted our faces on multiple websites or had them picked up by surveillance cameras – and it’s difficult, for the average person to change their face.

Moreover, other smartphone companies such as Apple and Samsung have incorporated biometrics technology including facial recognition and fingerprint scanning software into their devices, and hackers have proven themselves capable of bypassing them, Ajay Sood, general manager of cybersecurity firm FireEye, says.

“Fingerprints can be lifted using low-tech methods like tape, and digital reproductions of facial telemetry – with or without a video blink – are certainly possible,” Sood says. “There could be the potential for biometric-skimming malware, where fingerprint, and facial feature captures are stolen, warehoused, and exploited, much like their credit card number skimming predecessors.”

Ideally, he says, MasterCard will enhance its biometric authentication methods with additional security features such as a PIN number, password, or even a captcha.

Details regarding the Canadian version of Identity Check, which has already been colloquially dubbed “selfie pay,” are not yet available.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former editor of ITBusiness.ca turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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