Mastercard launches ‘smile to pay’ facial recognition tech in stores

·2-min read
 (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Archive)
(Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Archive)

Mastercard on Tuesday launched new facial recognition technology – allowing users to pay with a smile.

The same technology used for biometric identification on your phone, like a fingerprint or face ID, is being used to save time at the till.

Customers can approve payments with a grin or a wave of the hand, in replacement of a physical bank card.

The rollout will begin in Sao Paulo, Brazil with the PayFace app, with plans to expand to the Middle East, Asia and worldwide.

President of Cyber and Intelligence at Mastercard Ajay Bhalla said: “The way we pay needs to keep pace with the way we live, work and do business, offering choice to consumers with the highest levels of security.

“Our goal with this new program is to make shopping a great experience for consumers and merchants alike, providing the best of both security and convenience.”

PayFace technology requires users to sign up with the app, enrol their likeness and payment information and then “smile to pay” at checkout – without a card or mobile device.

Mastercard is drawing on facial recognition software from companies in Japan, Brazil and the US.

Consumers may also be enrolled in loyalty programmes and personalised shopping recommendations.

Mastercard claimed that some benefits include better hygiene, “heightened security”, faster payments and “empowering customers to choose how they want to pay”.

The system has led to privacy concerns from activists as well as concerns about fraud.

Suzie Miles,a partner at lawfirm Ashfords, told the Guardian: “Mastercard themselves have recognised the data and security concerns that come with the use of biometrics.

“A password can be changed, your smile and wave can not. If biometric data is hacked then the risk of fraudulent activity could be considerably higher than current payment methods.“

While it seems Mastercard have taken steps to protect and encrypt this data, as biometric payments become more commonplace the use of such data is likely to evolve and it will inevitably become harder to protect individuals rights to privacy.”

Mastercard cited data suggesting 74 per cent of users have a positive attitude toward the technology.

The financial giant is in competition with Amazon Go stores and Whole Foods brick and mortars in Seattle, as it trials an attempt to break in to the contactless biometrics technology market, worth $18.6bn by 2026, according to data by KBV Research.

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