Mastercard wants to replace old-fashioned mobile password with selfies to approve online payments. Have we gone too far?
Financial services giant Mastercard recently announced a new product which enables customers to authenticate purchases by snapping a picture on their smartphone? Is the company’s move towards selfie-security a step in the right direction, or a step too far in the industry’s efforts to make the most of new technology?
To anyone paying attention, Mastercard’s latest innovation in mobile payment security probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Pre-dating the digital revolution by several decades, the relationship between finance and technology has always been strong, with the former embracing new ideas from the latter in an effort to meet the needs of customers whose increasingly demanding lifestyles require quicker, simpler solutions to everyday essential tasks.
In doing so, the fintech collaboration has taken us a long way from even relatively modern inventions such as telephone banking, and certainly much further away from the paper passbooks and long in-branch queues which must seem alien to a generation of mobile Millennials growing up with anywhere, anytime money management solutions.
And, as the pace of the digital revolution as a whole quickens, so too has the rate of mobile banking innovations hitting the market.
Already in the past several years, we’ve seen banks integrate augmented reality into their digital platforms, and even introducing emoji-based login systems in an effort to eradicate the need for alphanumerical passwords, something Mastercard are now taking one step further by removing the need to remember any kind of password at all.
Speaking ahead of the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, the company’s President of Enterprise Security Solutions, Ajay Bhalla, told the media that passwords typed into a mobile banking application were unsafe particularly with an alarming number of users continuing to use security codes that were far too easy to hack. Instead, Mr. Bhalla insisted that biometric security is the way forward for digital payments, claiming that -as Mastercard’s new system rolls out across Europe and North America, scores of customers across the world will be using it regularly over the next couple of years.
Of course, Mastercard aren’t the first company to offer biometric security solutions to the consumer market. Anyone with the latest iPhone should be familiar with the option of using fingerprint recognition to unlock their phones, whilst in the mobile banking sector itself, companies like PayPal have introduced the same technology to their smartphone application.
They are, however, the first to introduce facial-recognition software to mobile payment software with a product many are referring to as ‘selfie-pay’.
To use the system, customers will be required to download a special app to their smartphones, and use it to take a new selfie for each purchase, blinking as they do so in order for the facial recognition software to recognise the picture as being taken live at the time.
Selfie-pay’s pilot scheme has proven successful for Mastercard, though it hasn’t been without its critics, with some arguing that rather than providing a much needed solution to the mobile security problem, the company are only in fact adding to it in an attempt to appeal to the Millennial market.
A number of statements from Ajay Bhalla have only served to back-up the critics’ arguments, especially his statement that:
“The new generation, which is into selfies … I think they’ll find it cool. They’ll embrace it.”
Embrace it they may, though not without potential consequences which experts say could well prove to be much more serious -and far reaching- than a database of passwords being compromised.
In the last twelve months, we’ve heard stories of hackers successfully making copies of fingerprint data, and unlike an alphanumerical password, those fingerprints can’t simply be changed, no matter what we may have seen in the movies.
So, though selfie security may be a nice idea to appeal to the Millennial market, it’s probably safe to say that it’s ultimately leaving that very same market vulnerable to a whole new level of data theft, one that no amount of password changes can prevent.
Whether that’s a step in the right direction is debatable, whether it’s a step too far is -for some of selfie-pay’s most ardent naysayers at least- a no brainer, though if there’s one thing we can likely all agree on, it’s that Mastercard’s new biometric security system is another step forward in the digital banking revolution that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone.
Main Image Source – By Kārlis Dambrāns