Mastercard Implements Facial Recognition for Online Payments, Puts Sensitive Data At Risk

The way we make payments in our daily lives is slowly but surely taking on a more digital aspect.  Cashless transactions are on the rise in most parts of the world, and the time has come to introduce some new payment methods.  But one of the things we have to keep in mind is that security and customer data protection remain a key factor.  Will facial recognition be the answer to our security problems? Mastercard sure seems to think so.

Authorising Online Payments With a…Selfie?

If there’s one thing history has shown us, it is that facial recognition is a powerful security measure, yet it also has some key flaws that need to be ironed out.  Mastercard has come up with a new idea to make facial recognition more secure – their implementation will force the user to blink whenever they want to authorise an online payment.

According to the information provided to us by a Mastercard spokesperson, the blinking motion would circumvent one of facial recognition’s major flaws: holding up a still photo of a face to gain access.  That being said, playing a recording of someone’s face while they are blinking may bypass this additional security measure, although no official reports have confirmed that possibility.

Most users are concerned about Mastercard storing their sensitive facial recognition data on centralized servers, and the company has told CNN they will be storing a “digital signature of your body part’s physical characteristics”.  However, it should, theoretically, be impossible to generate a face associated with this digital signature, although a user’s biometric data will be stored on Mastercard servers during the trial phase.

Every time a user attempts to make a credit card payment online, a Mastercard mobile app on your mobile device – smartphones only for now – will pop up and ask you to confirm the transaction.  To do so, a customer needs to look into their device’s front-facing camera, blink once, and hopefully, your payment will be authorised and authenticated.

All of this may sound slightly futuristic, but Mastercard officials claim they have partnered with every smartphone maker – including Blackberry – to make this project a reality.  At the time of publication, the trial period for this new feature will be tested by 500 individuals, with a public release to follow at an unspecified date.  Customers who own a device with fingerprint scanning capabilities will be able to use that type of technology to authenticate online credit card payments as well.

Bitcoin Has A Leg Up In Terms of Mobile Payments

Whenever discussions about mobile payments arise, there is a clear advantage for Bitcoin to be noticed by everyone.  Rather than storing your personal data, mobile Bitcoin payments do not require a facial, fingerprint or other type of scan to let users make a payment.  Granted, a user will need to provide some form of two-factor authentication, but nothing as intrusive as what Mastercard has planned.

Traditional financial corporations such as Mastercard are playing catch up to Bitcoin in the world of mobile payments.  Bitcoin enthusiasts have been able to pay with their mobile devices for many years now, and the technology works fine.  Other organizations try to come up with new ways to keep their grasp on the market, even though that means they are not only putting personal and financial, but  also biometric user data at risk.

Source: Ars Technica UK

Images courtesy of Shutterstock and Mastercard