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Android Pay feature could use face recognition for loyalty programs


Google has uploaded a new version of its Android Pay application to the Play Store that could potentially include a feature to authenticate loyalty programs at retailers and waive payments, according to a report by 9 to 5 Google.

Earlier this year, Google discontinued the Hands Free pilot program it launched in early 2016 that allowed users to make payments at retailers using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and visual authentication. At the time, Google attributed the decision to turning its focus on Android Pay.

The report provides an ‘APK teardown’ where the version 1.22 of Android Pay has been decompiled to reveal various lines of code that hint at potential features.

It is uncertain whether or not Google will ever ship these features, and 9 to 5 Google’s interpretation of what the features are may not be entirely accurate.

The application includes several strings of code that refers to a feature known as Visual ID, which will solely be used to authenticate loyalty programs at retailers and waive payments.

The string code describes the features as a “secure way to confirm your identity at participating stores, making it easier to do things like earn loyalty points and redeem rewards.”

Leveraging facial recognition technology, the feature enables users to generate a face template during the initial enrollment.

A Visual ID camera will capture a photo of the user at participating stores and compare the stored image to authenticate users.

In regards to privacy, Google said that retailers are unable to access the captured images, while the system deletes the photo shortly after they are taken.

The string code states that “Google creates and stores a face template based on the photo you save during setup. When you’re at a participating store, Visual ID will automatically confirm your identity using facial recognition technology (your face template is compared to the image captured by the in-store Visual ID camera). Images captured by the in-store Visual ID camera can’t be accessed by the store and are deleted shortly after they’re captured. They’re not stored or saved.”

Once the system confirms the match, Google will transmit loyalty data to the store while Bluetooth capabilities are used to detect the user’s location at a store.

The string code also mentions that “Visual ID uses Bluetooth and other signals from your phone to detect your location”, and when “Visual ID confirms your identity, Google sends your loyalty info to the store, but does not share any other info about you.”

The feature can also be disabled any time by changing your Android Pay settings.

Google will likely use the Visual ID feature as a starting point to test the technology on a wider scale.

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