Towards cashless, cardless, and phoneless payment

Are the days when you had to take a card out of your wallet, withdraw cash or use your smartphone to pay at a store, coming to an end? The Mastercard credit card issuer appears to think so. The company now relies on biometric technology, which uses a person’s unique physical characteristics — such as their fingerprints or the shape of their face — to identify them. Thus, the biometric exit program, unveiled at the end of May 2022, will allow, if the first tests go well, payment by showing your face to the camera.

To be able to do this, you must first register with the mobile application, decide which companies you plan to pay in this way, and then take a picture of your face.

“The image is then destroyed, only the encrypted bio-data that is recorded by a company that specializes in biometrics,” explains Matt Bruger, Global Vice President, Product Development at Mastercard. Phones with biometric features, such as Apple’s Face ID, follow the same principle; However, in this case, the mathematical representation of the face is stored on a chip in the device, not in the data center.

Once in the store, the Mastercard system user must smile for the camera (which can be integrated into a self-checkout, for example). The captured image is then converted into biometric data, which is then compared to identities stored in the cloud in order to link the customer to their credit card number.

During a demonstration at MasterCard’s new technology center in Vancouver, where News The process seemed as simple and quick as one would imagine.

Note that biometrics is already well established in the payment industry. Mastercard and Visa, for example, both offer banks the option to issue cards using fingerprint readers. Face-only push, for now, is unique.

Confirmation of identity in the age of the Internet

The use of biometrics in a way represents a return to another era, when a merchant gets to know their customers by seeing them walk through the door. No proof of ID or password was needed to charge a purchase 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 in the case of online transactions, when you can’t even see them,” explains Matt Prodger.

Usually, payment companies such as Mastercard, as well as banks, analyze hundreds of information at the time of a transaction to assess its level of security.

“Mastercard has a list of more than 7 billion identity-related parameters, such as email addresses. If the thief creates an address for a fraudulent transaction, the system will notify us that it appears new and that there is a risk,” explains Nima Sebasi, Vice President, Innovation and Product Development at Mastercard. .

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

Other factors are taken into account, both in person and online, such as the number of transactions in the last hours and the speed with which the form is filled out (if it is too fast, this indicates that the automated program is running; if it is too slow, it indicates that personal information may not be known by heart). After analyzing about 50 milliseconds, a score of 1000 is sent to the bank, which decides whether to accept the transaction or not.

Biometrics help identify a person, but they also add an extra layer of assurance regarding the legality of a transaction.

Several pending questions

The payment software for facial recognition is only being tested in Brazil at the moment, and several questions remain.

For example, we do not know how effective the system is. Even the best smartphones sometimes don’t recognize their owner. What flags will be installed to prevent the system from making mistakes between two similar people?

As noted by researcher Rita Matulionyte of Macquarie University School of Law in Australia, the majority of facial recognition algorithms are less accurate with people from racial and ethnic minorities. “The technology has improved over the past few years, but it is not without flaws,” she noted in an analysis of the Mastercard system published on online media outlet The Conversation.

It also remains to be seen if the public is ready to adopt this method of payment. According to MasterCard, 74% of consumers will be interested in such technology. But in a survey published last month by Capterra, a division of US research firm Gartner, only 25% of Quebecers said they were comfortable with the idea of ​​sharing their vital data with private companies.

Fortunately, the program is offered as optional. When you get to the country someday (the launch date hasn’t been confirmed), it will be up to everyone to decide if they prefer paying with their face or not.

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