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Mastercard wants your face and hand imprint for payments

Mastercard wants YOU to be the password. Say cheese and smile for the camera!
By Roland Udvarlaki May 18, 2022, 2:00 pm
Mastercard Biometric Checkout Program Source: Mastercard

Mastercard today announced a new way to make payments called the Biometric Checkout Program. Instead of looking for your phone or wallet at checkout, the new system aims to speed up the process by only using either your face or your hand to make a purchase at a kiosk. Earlier last month, we took a closer look at the Chip Man, who put 32 chips under his skin to this day to make payments by simply touching his hand on the contactless reader.

Mastercard announced the new Biometric Checkout Program today which represents a “first-of-its-kind technology framework to help establish standards for new ways to pay at stores of all sizes,” including major retailers to corner shops. The new program sets out new standards that banks and merchants can adhere to and follow, to ensure that the security and the privacy and other personal data are kept safe and secure, after all, it’s processing faces and hand imprints.

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“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,” said Ajay Bhalla, president, Cyber & Intelligence at Mastercard. “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.”

Before we raise the privacy concerns, let’s take a look at some statistics and how the program works in practice. Mastercard proudly shows that 74% of consumers have a positive attitude towards biometric technology, which is projected to reach $18.6 billion by 2026. The survey relates to making payments with a fingerprint sensor by unlocking a smartphone or a card. The research also shows that “70% have used fingerprint biometrics with 55% having used it to unlock their smartphone.” Biometrics, in this sense, refers to fingerprint, facial, voice, and iris.

How does the Mastercard Biometric Checkout Program work?

Mastercard Biometric Checkout Program Source: Mastercard

Participating stores can enter into the Mastercard Biometric Checkout Program and offer consumers the option to enroll in the service. Consumers who choose to participate can download the provided application and set up their accounts. The process isn’t explained, but we assume it requires the person’s existing account details, asking the user to scan their face and hands.

Once everything is set up, the consumer can enter a participating store, check the bill, smile into a camera, or wave their hand over a reader to make the purchase. Mastercard says that the new technology “ensures a fast and secure checkout experience, whilst also empowering consumers to choose how they want to pay.”

Benefits of using the new technology & Availability

The press release says that stores would also benefit from using the new technology as it could result in faster transaction times, shorter lines, greater hygiene, and heightened security. The new system also allows retailers to integrate loyalty programs and offer personalized recommendations to help consumers “find products they might be interested in based on previous purchases.”

Mastercard is already working with NEC, Payface, Aurus, PaybyFace, PopID and Fujitsu Limited to launch and scale this new technology. The first pilot program launched this week in Brazil with Payface and St. Marche. The new system will be implemented across five St Marche supermarkets in São Paulo. Future pilot programs are planned to roll out in the Middle East and Asia.

Security & Privacy concerns

Mastercard Biometric Checkout Program Source: Mastercard

It’s well-known that many banks and other payment providers often sell data to increase their profits and help advertisers make more effective ad campaigns. This helps them track you throughout websites, helping them make a better profile about your preferences and interests. Mastercard explains that it wants to replace passwords and PINs with you, the person, to enhance privacy and security. Still, it raises many questions about how it would handle the highly confidential data from customers who choose not to opt-in.

Mastercard’s press release states the following:

“Mastercard has long pioneered biometrics - instore and online - as a secure way to verify identity, replacing the password with the person. The effort, which builds on the EMV 3-D Secure standard, enables people to shop and pay through biometric-powered payment cards, devices and wearables. Biometrics have also featured in confirming online shoppers’ identities through “selfie pay” and online, leveraging key standards such as FIDO (Fast Identity Online).

As this technology is increasingly adopted across the world, Mastercard is helping ensure all stakeholders maintain the highest levels of security and privacy to protect consumers. The Biometric Checkout Program is governed by Mastercard’s principles for data responsibility, reinforcing that consumers have the right to control how their personal data is shared and benefit from its use.”

Many people, including myself, find that paying with credit or debit cards (non-contactless) and phones are much safer as one requires a PIN, while the other requires the smartphone to be unlocked or verified. I have always been against contactless card payments as the card could easily be picked up by anyone and used to make a purchase. Using facial recognition or the hand imprint raises a lot of privacy questions. Until Mastercard can provide more information about how it processes this information, I doubt many will want to voluntarily give up their data to be stored in a database. Even if the data is fully encrypted and backed up by a billion-dollar security system, it still leaves room for hackers to find a flaw and attempt to access the information.

Biometrics information never usually leaves the device (on smartphones, computers and tablets), hence making facial recognition, iris scan, and fingerprint recognition seamless and safe. While Mastercard has an excellent reputation for keeping private information safe and secure, but the newly introduced system raises a lot of red flags. The system is opt-in and very limited at the moment, and hopefully, it stays that way.

Would you switch to using the Biometric Checkout Program by Mastercard, or do you prefer using your existing card or smartphone to make small purchases at supermarkets and other shops? Let us know in the comments!

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