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Selfies to emerge as both payment, anti-fraud solution


MasterCard is now encouraging everyone to use their smartphones to “take a selfie”. The payment company is currently testing new facial recognition technology that would let customers verify their identity by taking a self-portrait photo with a camera phone.

Typically, selfies are shared on social networking services such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They are usually flattering and made to appear casual. Most selfies are taken with a camera phone which is held at arm’s length or pointed at a mirror. A typical selfie, usually shot from a high angle, exaggerates the size of the eyes and gives the impression of a slender pointed chin.

Over the past few years, the “selfie” has become so popular that the word continues to dominate our cultural consciousness, and has even entered the Oxford English Dictionary. In 2013, it was the Oxford Dictionaries “Word of the Year”.

The jury is out on whether the “selfie” however is in good taste. At the end of 2013, British Prime Minister David Cameron, U.S. President Barack Obama and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt were criticized as being crass, cheesy and tasteless for posing for a selfie at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.

Other studies have claimed that posting photos of oneself now represent an socially-accepted form of online vanity, that concurrently correlates to lower levels of social support and intimacy with one’s social network connections.

Whatever one thinks of the selfie trend, it has become so popular that it can be described as a phenomenon, which has made it marketable concept.

According to Kimberly Little Sutherland, Senior Director of Identity Management Strategy at LexisNexis Risk Solutions, the selfie is a popular, marketable concept because it is both “personal and relatable”.

According to Sutherland: “Consumers are willing to test out the technology because they are open to experiencing it.” Sutherland notes that research in the “Samsung/OnePoll, HTC One Selfie Phenomenon” report, published in 2013, claims that selfies accounted for 30 percent of pictures taken by those aged 18-24. She now estimates that selfies currently account for 80 percent of pictures taken by that demographic.

Since the newest generation of smartphones will now contain 16-megapixel camera modules, Sutherland believes that mobile devices will be a “transformative” tool that will fundamentally change they way identity management and higher risk transactions will be conducted.

She expects that the selfie concept, will be marketed as a means to purchase products and services vis-a-vis mobile devices. The facial recognition technology unlying the “selfie” authentication process will both leverage liveness detection and document verification from real IDs to ensure a consumer’s authenticity, along with other typical elements that impact biometrics, according to Sutherland, which include, enrollment, storage, error rate, exception process, and user experience.

The aim for “selfie” authentication is to integrate biometrics into an overall payment experience. A report from CNN Money states that MasterCard is working on a system that would achieve just that.

As BiometricUpdate.com previously reported, MasterCard has partnered with all major smartphone manufacturers, including Apple, BlackBerry, Google, Microsoft and Samsung, and is currently finalizing agreements with two major banks. Consumers will be able to use the selfie feature by downloading and logging into the MasterCard phone app. When users make an online purchase they will be asked to stare at the phone and blink once, which prevents a thief from simply holding up a photo of the customer in an effort to access the system. The system, which is currently being tested by 500 users, will be employed to speed transactions and guard against online fraud.

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