MasterCard Pilot Program to Use Facial-Scan Verification

Jul 3, 2015 9:00 AM PST

SAN FRANCISCO — Facial scans could be the way online purchases will be approved in the future.

MasterCard announced this week that it will launch a small pilot program that verifies the identities of card users through their unique body parts — their face, as well as fingerprints

It will be a limited experiment involving 500 customers. But, once it works out the bugs, MasterCard plans to launch it publicly sometime after that.

These new techniques show the growing need of a stringent security level to slow down fraud and ward off hackers. With using facial recognition and fingerprints, MasterCard can ensure that its cards are being used by none other than the card holder.

To employ the technology that will eventually secure transactions, MasterCard has entered into alliances with smartphone makers, including Apple Inc. Samsung Electrics Co., Google Inc., BlackBerry Ltd. and Microsoft Corp.

“We’re starting to see and hear about more things like this within the e-commerce space,” said Gary Jackson, managing vice president of sales and Internet markets for CCBill, the Tempe, Ariz.-based e-commerce solutions provider.

“I think what it really gets at is how card associations are looking for some alternative ways to mitigate fraud within card-not-present transactions, particularly given the fact that EMV is being adopted in the U.S. and we all saw how fraud shifted from card-present to card-not-present transactions in Europe when EMV was adopted there,” Jackson told XBIZ.

Time will tell if the facial recognition and fingerprint alternatives are viable solutions, or if they get replaced with something else, Jackson said.

Whatever is eventually chosen, Jackson noted that there could be immediate problems with the introduction of facial-recognition to verify card holders who purchase sexually explicit material.

“Specifically for the adult marketplace, I think we need to be mindful of potential implications of something like this,” Jackson said. “Could it be a pre-cursor to age verification? How would a facial recognition software impact the degrees of privacy many consumers in the adult market want?

“To date, we’ve found the traditional methods of validation in conjunction with the preemptive fraud protection employed by most third-party players has served to significantly reduce fraud and abuse in the markets we serve; though we will be following the results of this test.”     

MasterCard also disclosed it is experimenting with voice recognition and unique signature heartbeats as other possible verification solutions.

“It’s never a bad idea to test some new methods for combating fraud, and that is basically what MasterCard is doing here,” Jackson said.

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