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Will selfie payments be the future of mobile payments?

Nurdianah Md Nur | July 14, 2015
MasterCard and Alibaba seem to think so as they’ve invested in facial recognition solutions for mobile transactions.

Jack Ma Smile to Pay Alibaba
Alibaba CEO Jack Ma shows off Alipay's new facial recognition technology.

In future, taking a selfie may not just be for vanity's sake — it may be a payment mode.

Tapping on the growing selfie obsession, MasterCard has announced a pilot programme, in which consumers could pay for their online purchases by taking a photograph of their face using their mobile devices.

"Passwords are a pain... The new generation, which is into selfies, will find it cool. They'll embrace it," Ajay Bhalla, MasterCard's president of enterprise safety and security, told CNNMoney. He added that MasterCard has partnered major smartphone makers including Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung, to facilitate the new function.

To use the feature, consumers will first have to download a MasterCard phone app. They will then be asked to enable the facial recognition function and key in their MasterCard credentials online once. From then onwards, consumers will be prompted to take a selfie every time they want to pay for their online purchases via a mobile device.

As a security measure, the app will require users to blink once to prevent a thief from just holding up a picture to fool the system. The facial recognition software will coordinate the approval process accordingly.

Even though the pilot will be limited to 500 customers, MasterCard said it will broaden its scope if the trial is successful.

Similarly, Alibaba recently announced its plans to enable mobile payments using facial recognition software. The Chinese e-commerce giant said that Ant Financial, one of its subsidiaries, is working on the technology behind its "Smile to Pay" feature.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma demonstrated the technology in March at a conference in Germany by purchasing a stamp and paying for it after taking a selfie to confirm his identity. The company has not provided an official launch date for the new feature, but said that it will be first rolled out in China before expanding it globally.


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