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MasterCard rolls out ‘selfie’ verification for mobile payments

Mon 22 Feb 2016

MasterCard selfie

MasterCard has announced plans to invest in facial recognition technology in the UK, in a push to reduce false decline transactions and increase security for mobile payments.

Following trials in countries including the U.S. and the Netherlands, ‘Selfie Pay’ will be introduced in Britain [paywalled] as part of the financial services company’s identity validation process. Users will be able to choose between finger scanning and face recognition for verification, instead of traditional passwords or PIN numbers.

Consumers will be asked to upload their pictures online to be stored on MasterCard servers. These registered images will then be used as a reference every time a user opts for facial verification during a transaction.

MasterCard has argued that new identification systems will help to minimise false declines, which typically occur on credit card transactions when users travel aborad and have legitimate spends blocked. The declines immediately raise suspicion and require direct contact with the bank. The company said that the value of false declines per year has reached up to $118bn (£83.5bn) – 13 times higher than the total amount lost every year to actual card fraud.

The system is expected to launch in 14 countries later this year. Speaking ahead of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, Ajay Bhalla, MasterCard president of enterprise security solutions, confirmed that user response to the pilot schemes had been extremely positive.

“Nobody likes being falsely accused of something, but that’s what it feels when a transaction is falsely declined […] As criminals have become smarter, so efforts to prevent fraud have resulted in an increase in genuine transactions being declined,” said Bhalla.

MasterCard has also invested in other mobile technologies aimed at improving its user identification processes. These have included a recent partnership with Swiss mobile network and transaction security firm, WISeKey, which is looking into facilitating contactless payments using wearable devices. This initiative will cover smartwatch products and other wearables produced by luxury brands such as Hublot and Bulgari.

Several other UK financial organisations have recently announced new technology projects to improve the security of their user transactions. Last week, HSBC said that it would be offering biometric banking options, including voice and fingerprint recognition to all of its customers by summer 2016.

Francesca McDonagh, head of retail banking and wealth management at HSBC UK commented that this new approach to user verification will make it “even quicker and easier for customers” to conduct transactions, “using the most secure form of password technology – the body.”


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