Selfie Security: Your Face Could Soon Become Your PIN

While most of the general public likes to poke fun at the current selfie craze—otherwise known as the rampant need to take a photograph of yourself with your own phone or camera—one company is taking selfies to a whole new level.

MasterCard is exploring the possibility of using facial recognition software to turn your selfie image into a security response for making payments from your virtual wallet.

With a virtual wallet set up in your smartphone or other mobile device, you can pay for purchases in many locations directly from your phone. The idea behind the process isn’t just about convenience; why carry a card that can easily be compromised when you’re already carrying a very expensive smartphone that you most likely treat with the utmost security, considering how much information it contains about you?

But how will the selfie process work? According to the method that’s being tested right now, consumers will pay for their purchases using the dedicated app. Instead of poking the keypad to enter the PIN number in order to confirm the payment, the user will hold his phone up in front of his face and take a picture of himself. In order to verify that this isn’t a stolen photograph of the customer, the app will require the user to hold it long enough to blink his eyes, proving that it’s a current, live image.

Critics are already concerned that a still image of a customer could be animated to make the eyes appear to blink, or that a simple video of the customer could do the trick. All a thief would have to do is take a short video of his target before stealing his phone, and then point the stolen phone at the video taken on the thief’s own phone when it’s time to pay. Ideally, that would alert the employee at the register that something was amiss, but that would require the employee to notice the switch and to take preventive action.

What really has some experts concerned is the fact that your face is converted to a digital file that MasterCard will then store; the company has promised to keep the algorithm secure, but hasn’t provided details on how that will happen. With the recent finding that the majority of American consumers believe data breaches and identity theft are practically unavoidable, handing over one more piece of identifying information—especially one that is directly tied to both your personal physical safety and your financial accounts—has raised some eyebrows.

As alarming as it may be to some, the use of biometrics as a form of identification on a smartphone isn’t new. Manufacturers have already incorporated fingerprint sensors that unlock your phone, activate your mobile wallet, and more. And according to some reports, once MasterCard finishes its initial beta testing with the first five hundred customers, consumers will still have the option to use their fingerprints as their authentication instead of their photo. Some reports also indicate that MasterCard is experimenting with voice recognition PINs that will accept your voice command as a payment identifier. That’s really good news for those individuals who haven’t yet jumped on board with taking selfies!

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