MasterCard developing 'selfie authentication'

It might not launch a thousand ships, but your face could soon launch a thousand transactions

We live in an age where you can pay for your shopping with everything from your phone to your fingerprint. Now MasterCard wants to add your face to the mix.

The financial giant's new app adds a second layer of biometric authentication to existing payments.

When customers attempt to make a transaction using their card they'll be directed to an app which asks them whether they wish to use a fingerprint or a selfie to confirm their identity. If they opt for facial recognition, they can then hold their phone's camera in front of their face for a few seconds to complete the purchase.

As unique identifiers go, the face is as good as any; passports have long used facial biometric data to verify the identity of travellers.

Of course, that data is used in the context of airport security, where the subject can be monitored as the face is captured. In order to prevent criminals from using a photo of their victim to cheat MasterCard's app, it asks the user to blink in front of the camera - something portraits can't do unless they're found at Hogwarts.

MasterCard hopes that the new system will appeal to younger users: "The new generation, which is into selfies... I think they'll find it cool" said Ajay Bhalla, one of the chief eggheads at the firm.

With more personal data swimming in the internet soup than ever before, two-factor authentication is becoming increasingly common. A prime example is Google Authenticator, an app which adds a second code to all Google-integrated login and password systems. There are others like this, but MasterCard's is the first, as far as we're aware, to integrate a cultural pastime into its security measures.

MasterCard is currently testing the app with a group of 500 users, but it's expected that the new system will make its way to customers after the beta process is complete.

[via CNN]