Amazon Eyes Pay-By-Selfie Tech

Amazon earnings

The biometrics bug has caught Amazon.

A new patent application from the eCommerce giant shows that Amazon wants to make its one-click buying option a little tech savvier. In this particular case, Amazon’s patent plans show that it is after launching an option that allows consumers to authenticate their purchase with a picture or video of themselves to make a payment instead of entering a password.

Amazon already has a patent filed to authenticate a particular account using this technology, but that process didn’t involve payments. This is in line with trends that many companies are embracing, including Alibaba and MasterCard, just to name two.

“The entry of these passwords … can require the user to turn away from friends or co-workers when entering a password, which can be awkward or embarrassing in many situations,” the patent reads.

Amazon hasn’t officially commented on this patent, but multiple media outlets have picked up copies of the patent application. The patent also specifies that users can conduct the transaction through a phone or computer and “can prompt the user to perform certain actions, motions, or gestures, such as to smile, blink, or tilt his or her head.” That security feature eliminates the risk that a hacker could authenticate a purchase using a picture of the user.

Beyond Amazon, MasterCard officially rolled out its “selfie pay” concept in the fall of 2015. The feature will make it possible for merchants to verify the identity of a shopper by looking at a photo of their face. That rollout will continue throughout the United States in 2016 and go global in 2017.

To make the new service work, a photo is taken every time a customer makes a MasterCard purchase via a phone app. The picture is then used to authenticate the user’s identity — on top of the password — through cross comparison with a photo the user has already supplied to MasterCard.

MasterCard announced last month its plans to roll out the option in the U.K. This technology enables consumers to use their fingerprints or a photo of themselves to validate their identity. This was created for online purchases and developed with the purpose of nixing passwords or codes.


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