Towards cashless, cardless and phoneless payments

Gone are the days when you had to pull a card out of your wallet, walk around with cash, or make payments to the store using your smartphone? MasterCard credit card providers seem to believe so. The agency is now relying on biometric technology, which uses a person’s unique physical features – such as their fingerprints or the shape of their face – to identify them. Its biometric checkout program, unveiled at the end of May 2022, will allow you to pay by showing your face to the camera, if the first tests are good.

To be able to do this, you must first register using a mobile application, specifying which businesses you plan to pay this way, then take a picture of your face.

“The photo is then destroyed, it’s just encrypted biometric data that is recorded by a company that specializes in biometrics,” explained Matt Prazer, global vice president of product development at MasterCard. Phones with biometric features like Apple’s Face ID follow the same policy; In this case, however, the mathematical representation of the face is stored on a chip of the device, not in the data center.

Once in the store, the user of the MasterCard system must smile at a camera (which may be integrated into a self-service checkout, for example). The photo taken is converted into biometric data, which is compared to the identity stored in the cloud to link the customer to their credit card number.

During a demonstration at MasterCard’s new technology center in Vancouver, where News Invited, the operation could be imagined as easy and fast as it seemed.

Note that biometrics is already well established in the payment industry. For example, both MasterCard and Visa offer banks the option to issue cards with a fingerprint reader. Payment with his mouth only, for the moment, is kind of unique.

Confirming identity in the internet age

The use of biometrics represents a way back to another era, when a merchant could recognize his customers as they walked through the door. Proof of his identity or password is not required to make purchases on their account.

“It’s a bit like the basic problem we’re trying to solve: how to trust someone when you don’t know them and, when it comes to Internet transactions, when you can’t even see them,” explains Matt Prazer.

Typically, payment companies like MasterCard, but also banks, analyze hundreds of pieces of data to assess its level of security during a transaction.

“MasterCard has a list of over 7 billion identity-related parameters, such as email addresses. If a thief creates an address for a fraudulent transaction, the system will notify us that it appears to be new and that there is a risk, “said Nima Sepasi, Vice President, MasterCard, Innovation and Product Development.

The company uses artificial intelligence to assess the risks associated with the transaction using a variety of criteria. Thus, a business or a transaction site will be considered safe if the person has already made a purchase there. The same policy applies to the device used in an online purchase, if the person has already used it to make a transaction with the same credit card account, then it will be considered more secure.

Other factors are considered, both personally and online, such as the number of transactions in the last hour and the speed at which a form is filled out (if it is too fast, it indicates that the automated software is working; if it is too slow, it indicates personal information). Cannot be known by heart). After about 50 milliseconds of analysis, a score out of 1000 is sent to the bank, which decides whether to accept the transaction.

Biometrics help identify a person, but it also adds an extra layer of assurance about the legitimacy of the transaction.

Several outstanding questions

This facial recognition payment program is only being tested in Brazil for the moment and there are several questions left.

For example, we do not know how effective the system will be. Even the best smart phone sometimes does not recognize its owner. Which beacon will be installed to prevent the system from making a mistake between two people looking the same?

Rita Matulionite, a researcher at Macquarie University School of Law in Australia, noted that most facial recognition algorithms are less accurate with ethnic and racial minorities. “Technology has improved over the last few years, but it’s not without its flaws,” he said in an analysis of MasterCard’s system published in the online media The Conversation.

It remains to be seen whether the people are ready to resort to this method of payment. According to MasterCard, 74% of customers will be interested in this type of technology. But in a survey published last month by Captra, a division of the American research firm Gartner, only 25% of Quebecers said they felt comfortable with the idea of ​​sharing their biometric data with private companies.

Fortunately, the program was presented as optional. When it arrives in the country one day (no launch date has been confirmed), it is up to everyone to decide whether they would like to pay with their mouths.

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