Is your body the password of the future?

Selfie might have been the word of the year back in 2013, but it seems that the spread of self-photography is only growing as Mastercard has introduced selfies as a replacement for PINs or other security measures.

The credit card company began testing its facial recognition capabilities back in August last year, allowing First Tech employees to authenticate and verify transactions with artificial funds in a closed environment using faction recognition or fingerprint biometrics. This summer, Mastercard will expand the technology to 14 countries, including the UK.

When making a purchase online from a merchant that requires identity verification, cardholders will be able to authorise the transaction by holding up their phone as if taking a selfie and blinking – this ensures that the cardholder is a live person, not just a photograph – instead of entering a password or PIN.

‘Selfie pay’, as it’s been dubbed, is intended to ease the process of making mobile purchases – something that is getting increasingly more popular with a 10 per cent growth in just three months in the US last year – and it’s also thought to be more secure than just typing in a password or PIN. 

It sounds like customers are on board with the idea too. “A recent MasterCard survey found that 83 percent of consumers are excited about new secure technologies helping to protect their financial information,” Catherine Murchie, senior vice president of US processing, network and enterprise security solutions for MasterCard, said. “In the same survey, 75 percent of consumers stated that they have heard of biometric payments.”

Mastercard aren’t the only ones jumping on the biometric bandwagon, HSBC has also recently announced it’s upping its security measures with voice and touch identification.

“This is the largest planned roll out of voice biometric security technology in the UK, and demonstrates our continued investment in digital innovation and focus on making our services even more convenient for our customers,” Francesca McDonagh, HSBC UK’s head of retail banking and wealth management, said. “The launch of voice and touch ID makes it even quicker and easier for customers to access their bank account, using the most secure form of password technology – the body.”

According to research from the bank, more than a third of consumers agree that traditional passwords have become an outdated security measure. They also found that more than a third of people use the same password across most of their online accounts – and 55 per cent admitted to rarely updating these. All of this means that it’s easier for hackers to obtain personal and financial data. However, three-quarters of people are confident that their body is unique enough to be used as a password and expect it to become the default password of the future.

“The research shows Brits are increasingly demanding a simple alternative to traditional passwords,” Tracy Garrad, chief executive of first direct (HSBC’s telephone and internet-based bank), said. “While technology has evolved at pace, the security measures we use in everyday life have not kept up with the rate of change. Our voices and fingerprints are unique, with physical and behavioural characteristics almost impossible to mimic.”


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