Amazon files patent for payment-by-selfie tech

Dive Brief:

  • Amazon has filed for a patent for pay-by-selfie technology similar to that demonstrated last year by Alibaba/Alipay founder Jack Ma and by MasterCard, Re/Code reports

  • The development of fingerprint and facial recognition is an attempt to get past the clunkiness and other inadequacies of using Personal Identification Numbers or passwords to pay, which are easily forgotten, or, if stored, somewhat easily accessible.

  • Apparently, Amazon’s technology would require the user to make a motion, like a head-tilt, that would identify the user and prevent thieves from just holding up a picture of the user to access payment.

Dive Insight:

Getting away from PINs or passwords may seem like an obvious development in cyber-security, but privacy advocates don’t like the idea of companies using faces to pay. They warn that, without proper privacy protections in place, the Internet of Things could become the “Loophole of Things” that eventually might allow companies or government to run amok with access to our data, as advocate Alvaro M. Bedoya put it last year. 

“Facial recognition lets companies identify you by name, from far away, and in secret,” Bedoya wrote in Slate last year after his frustrations with negotiations with industry over facial-recognition technology “There’s little you can do to stop it. You can’t change your fingerprints or the unique dimensions of your face—not easily. And while you leave your fingerprints on only the things you touch, every time you step outside, your face appears, ready for analysis, in the video feeds and photographs of any camera pointing your way.”

But it’s not just that it’s a bad move for privacy advocates; it could be for business, too. Last year, one cybersecurity expert actually questioned the value of facial recognition for MasterCard. Indeed, ordinary people have proven to be resistant to face-recognition programs; it seems that people don’t like companies to be so tightly linked to them.

"From a privacy aspect it's awful, but from a business perspective, I don't understand why they'd accept that risk,” cybersecurity consulting firm co-founder Robert M. Lee told CNN Money. 

That might change, considering that younger people are accustomed to splashing images of all kinds, including of themselves, all over the web — though they also seem to value some control over that.

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Filed Under: Technology Payments
Top image credit: Flickr user Andrew Fysh