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MasterCard pictures selfies at forefront of mcommerce, crackdown on payments fraud

MasterCard’s plan to let consumers purchase items with a selfie via a biometric application points to the potential for a photo taken with a mobile camera to help combat fraud and drive mcommerce.

The credit card company is taking its experimentation with biometric security tools into a mobile app that would use facial recognition to verify a user’s identity. The exploration, first reported by CNNMoney and confirmed for Mobile Marketer by a MasterCard spokeswoman, points to the need for financial services brands to satisfy millennials’ demand for simpler processes in important financial matters.

“When it comes to online purchases, most of us can agree that passwords are a real problem,” said Jane Khodos, vice president and business leader for worldwide communications with MasterCard, Purchase, NY. “People forget them often and it’s a pain to go through the retrieval process.

“Consumers that dislike passwords have a choice to secure their online payment transactions with their face and/or fingerprint, or continue to use passwords,” she said. “The technology we are testing adds another layer of security to guard against online fraud.”

Feeling good
The selfie has become both a source of feel-good experiences for consumers and an engine of long-term value for marketers and smartphone makers, who have been investing in selfie-friendly phones to capitalize on consumers’ appetite for user-generated content.


Retailers are under pressure to offer biometric sensors for mobile shopping.

Driving the possibility of selfies’ playing a prominent role in financial matters is research from Acquity Group, a digital marketing unit of Accenture Interactive. Acquity concluded that retailers will lose 21 percent of their customers if they fail to offer enhanced payment security measures such as a fingerprint or other biometric sensors for mobile shopping.

Underlining the need for improved security is the finding that 19 percent of shoppers have been the victim of fraudulent purchases as a result of a security breach at a major retailer. And Walker Sands’ 2015 Future of Retail Study found that more confidence in payment security would have made 48 percent of consumers in 2014 more likely to shop online, up from 42 percent in 2013.

In MasterCard’s plan, after downloading the app, a user could pay for items by simply looking at a phone and blinking once. The blink would prevent thieves from showing the app a picture of one’s face in an attempt to fool it. Alternatively, the app can read a fingerprint.

Instead of sending either the user’s fingerprints or a picture of his or her face to MasterCard, the system would convert the image into code and send it to MasterCard.

“This is an important step in the right direction,” said Michael Diamond, chef revenue officer for Mitek, a maker of software that allows consumers to use the camera on their smartphone or tablet to take a photo of a document to facilitate commerce. “The mobile evolution has always been about making usage more intuitive.

“Leveraging the camera is consistent with user behavior and provides an excellent fraud deterrent for merchants,” he said.

Mitek is working with banks that leverage a selfie as part of their account opening process. “There are a number of potential use cases tied to providing more services to financial customers – such as higher mobile check deposits or greater velocity over a payment network,” Mr. Diamond said.

The strength of leveraging the selfie for purposes beyond the feel-good experience stems from its having quickly become embedded into the fabric of everyday life for mobile users.

“Once you add the ‘liveness’ detection, which MasterCard is doing via the blink test, the selfie becomes a high bar for fraudsters to clear if they are seeking to perpetuate fraud,” Mr. Diamond said.

“Also, most of us take selfies already in the course of our daily lives, so the behavior and action is known to consumers.”

As commerce and technology continue to increasingly intersect, consumers will embrace emerging technology such as drones and virtual reality shopping.

While the relationship between products and emotional connections form the bedrock of customer loyalty, consumers are also sensitive to security and value.

Twenty percent of consumers across generations said they would choose a new retailer for day-to-day items if the company offered enhanced security measures, such as fingerprint or other biometric sensors for mobile shopping, according to Acquity.

Forty percent of consumers were willing to shift their loyalties for at least one reason with 21 percent citing the offering of enhanced payment security measures such as a fingerprint or other biometric sensors for mobile shopping.

Online world
As the next generation of consumers become this generation’s primary purchasing audience, brands will need to demonstrate engagement strategies that align with expectations in a fast-paced, online world that still has a personal touch.

Brands need to match engagement strategies to expectations with a personal touch.

“Usually at the early stages of technology like this there are those who are disturbed by the new capability,” Mr. Diamond said. “When Mitek invented mobile deposit for checks, there were those who questioned the security or performance.

“After all, taking a picture of a check was very different from the traditional approach of visiting a branch,” he said. “But now the behavior is widespread, with around 50 million U.S. consumers using the technology.

“The same will likely hold true for facial recognition, which is why MasterCard is smart to get started now.”

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York