The future is biometric, says MasterCard

MasterCard is making good ground in the march towards a biometric-verified payments future.

MasterCard is making good ground in the march towards a biometric-verified payments future. Having announced a successful voice and facial recognition payment trial, it says passwords are dead and biometric-verified mobile payments are the future even on the most basic of handsets, writes Anna Milne

MasterCard’s latest voice and facial recognition, so as to have a “multi-layered approach” that gives the consumer flexibility tailored to their specific device and also in the level of fraud risk per transaction. Multi-layered refers to having different types of verification for all situations, taking into account consumer location and account history as well as biometric identification.

“Even when there is a need to challenge someone – such as someone suddenly making purchases overseas – we can adapt to the kind of phone they have, depending on whether it has fingerprint, camera or a microphone for voice, and prompt the bank to use the best method for that person and that level of risk,” said Bob Reany, MasterCard’s group head of authentication services.

Reany said the trial also took into account demographical and generational preferences: “younger people may be used to taking selfies. Affluent people can afford a smartphone with a fingerprint reader. Old people may associate fingerprints with being a criminal. We have to provide choices to both consumers and banks.”

The advantage of voice recognition is that it is already prevalent and accessible on outdated phone models so people don’t have to have the latest smart kit. Equally, MasterCard can access everybody.

It has certainly made good inroads with recent ‘bank the unbanked’ launches in Nigeria and Pakistan. In some emerging markets, voice is used to check consumers are still alive in order to receive social benefits. And with Apple Pay’s timely entrance, MasterCard looks set to ride the wave out fully.

There was some confusion around the verification rate- the reported 98% was apparently “not the measure of the performance of the biometric accuracy.

“This is about completed orders. In e-commerce, a lot of transactions get dropped for differing reasons, so for a first test, this is a great step forward,” said Reany.

He explained they needed to use biometrics that are commonly available on smartphones. Vein and iris, for instance, are not. The layered approach allows us to strengthen and tune the phone-based methods like finger, face and voice.

On the future of biometrics, Reany pretty much said it is the future:

“Passwords are pretty damaged- 1.2bn were just compromised in a Russian organised crime breach. Most static passwords are pretty damaged and we need to do better. In addition, we need consumer experiences that consumers enjoy.”