Soon ‘Selfie’ will be your password with Mastercard

“Selfies” which are often shared on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is all set to become a valuable tool in the fight against credit card fraud. Yes, you have heard it right. At least as far as MasterCard is concerned.

The company has officially announced its plans to introduce “selfie pay” security checks in more than a dozen countries at this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC). This program is part of MasterCard’s emphasis on biometrics as a form of security authentication. This feature allows cardholders to use a picture of their face or a fingerprint to verify their identity when making mobile online purchases.

“We want to identify people for who they are, not what they remember,” Ajay Bhalla, MasterCard’s president for enterprise safety and security, said on the company website.

Here’s how it works: Customers need to install a MasterCard’s Identity Check app to their smartphone, PC or tablet. The user then takes a selfie through the app and the image is stored in the company’s servers. The user can complete an online purchase as normal. Instead of immediately buying the item, though, a push notification is sent to the user’s smartphone to verify identity. Then the user can either scan his or her fingerprint or take a short video selfie. Essentially, a user’s face takes the place of the traditional password.

MasterCard says selfie pay will roll out to Identity Check users in more than a dozen countries later this year, as the company is looking for new ways to cut down on identity theft and credit card fraud.. The countries getting the technology in the summer include the UK, US, Canada, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. The expansion follows a successful trial last year involving the California-based First Tech Federal Credit Union and the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

According to a survey by MasterCard, 53 percent of shoppers forget passwords at least once a week, wasting more than 10 minutes to reset their accounts and leading to a third of shoppers abandoning their purchase.

“People shop on all sorts of devices, and they expect technology to simplify and secure the transaction,” said Bhalla in a press release. “This is exactly what Identity Check delivers.”

MasterCard claims this will provide a welcome alternative to passwords, which can either be forgotten or take a long time to input. During its trial in the Netherlands, the company claimed nine out of 10 participants preferred this technology over password authentication.

The company is looking at other forms of biometric authentication other than selfies. Mastercard is also now exploring the idea of monitoring your heartbeat or scanning the iris of your eye as a means of identity verification.

Ann Cairns, head of international markets for MasterCard told CNBC that the checks could help people in developing markets who may not have official ID documents.

“If you think about some of the things we’ve rolled out in some emerging markets, in places like Africa, where people don’t have identities because they don’t maybe have passports or driving licences, then biometric authentication is a way of saying ‘I’m me,'” she said.

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