MasterCard's biometric payment app: Selfie or Selfish?

It lets people make payments online by taking selfies instead of typing a password.

Loads of folk adore self-portrait technology. The selfie stick became  so popular it was banned (ok, in Disneyland but still) while Go-Pro cameras buzz heavily around sandy beeches like large intoxicated flies. 

It’s quite the shift though, money to cameras. In fact it’s a very odd notion, for me personally, to move away from chip n’ pin and try to embrace contacless payments.

MasterCard’s selfie- app though, even just for its’ marketing campaign, is a step too far. 

I was at Tech UK’s Payment and Innovation Conference on June 26, where Labour MP Chi Onwurh said: “[it is about time that] consumers are treated as citizens.

She then went on to argue the customer’s case and said that Britons should not have technology ‘imposed’ on them.

Furthermore: “People should have choice. Trust in technology is key.”

There’s a security with physical products. Just knowing there is a solid object, money, in hand or in the bank allows people to see how much money  they are spending.

Yet digital tech companies are highly innovative, althought it is imperative for the consumer to know where their data is going. Especially if it’s in the form of facial recognition app, as offered by MasterCard.

Everyone agrees that legacy banks need mdoernised and the curent infrastructre is long winded. This is undoubtedly true . However, it retains a form of reality. Money isn’t virtual, or is it?

Back to the ole biometrics: MasterCard’s ‘selfie’ app gives users 2 choices, a facial recognition scan or fingerprint.

 Each are a payment mechanisim based on identity, with the selfie option scanning the phone owner’s face while they blink. This ensures the app registers the rightful, human owner. Thereafter, a simple retina approves the online payment.

Yet I still can’t help but feel the opportunity for fraud is heightened with ‘selfie’ payments.

Perhaps a word from Google illustrates  my point:  

“Facial recognition

After setting a trusted face, every time you turn on your device, it’ll search for your face and unlock if it recognises you. IMPORTANT: This is less secure than a pattern, PIN or password. Someone who looks similar to you could unlock your phone.”

The counter argument says that passwords are easily forgotten, forged or a hassle. To the latter, I agree. It is a hassle remembering all the digits or the street you lived on more than three years ago. It is especially frustrating when the customer is simply trying to pay fopr a small value item or weekly shop.

It’s logical to suggest that MasterCard will apply the UK Card Association’s £30 limit to the app, moving to £30 in September 2015.

Already smartphone brands Apple, Google, and  Blackberry are in talks with the card giant to

However, when a smart phone becomes a bank, and a young person grows up in the world of selfies, there is potential for the next generation (post-millenials?) to lose sight of the concept of money, while focussing on the excitement and joy one undoubtedly gets from “buying”.

Yet biometrics in itself is an exciting solution that adds zing to the banking sector. And I understand that tech-heads at  MasterCard are aiming to incorporate other identity mechanisms to their payment apps at a later date: retina scans, finger prints, voice recognition, and measuring heart rates.