Alibaba uses facial recognition technology to secure online payments

March 16, 2015 - 

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. CEO Jack Ma demonstrated facial recognition technologies for mobile payment system Alipay at the CeBIT trade fair in Hanover, Germany, according to a report by The Stack.

During his keynote speech, Ma purchased an old souvenir stamp from Hanover on Alibaba.com.

He took a photo of his face onstage using a smartphone facial recognition technology (FRT) interface, which confirmed his identity and completed the payment. He then sent it to the Mayor of Hanover’s office.

“Online payments are always a big headache,” said Ma. “You forget your password, you worry about your security.” The full keynote presentation with demonstration can be viewed here.

Dubbed ‘Smile to Pay’, the beta version of Alipay’s FRT is currently being developed by Ant Financial Services, which operates Alipay, and Beijing-based tech company Megvii’s Face++ technology.

Although it remains to be seen when the facial recognition capabilities will be launched, an Alibaba spokesperson told CNBC that there are “all sorts of possibilities” about launching the service in other countries too.”

Meanwhile, other providers are providing their own authentication features. Apple’s payment service, Apple Pay, is currently offering fingerprint verification via its Touch ID feature, which is available on iPhone 5s, 6, and 6 plus,

Alibaba is also looking into new verification techniques, said an Alibaba spokesperson, including one that would allow users to confirm a purchase by speaking a specific voice phrase command and another that would authorize payments by scanning a tattoo or a pet.

Alibaba has gained a significant following in China with over 300 million registered users since launching as a spinoff of Alipay in 2011.

Previously reported, Alipay announced it will enable Chinese users of the iPhone 5s running iOS 8 to authenticate online payments by scanning their fingerprint.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.