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Facebook files patent for facial recognition for physical payments


A patent application filed by Facebook and published Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) indicates the company’s intention to move into the retail payments market. The filing describes a method of using facial recognition as a secure and convenient method for physical retailers to authenticate customers’ identities.

Patent inventor Stephen Moore Davis addressed the limitations of existing payment methods in the filing, including the requirements for devices using NFC for payments to first be unlocked with a PIN, password or biometric, and then held very close to the payment terminal. Facebook says this multi-step process is inconvenient and can take longer than transactions with cash or payment cards.

The alternative described in the filing by Facebook consists of capturing a facial image at the point of sale, matching it against one stored in the user’s account to authenticate both the user and the payment account, and a request for confirmation sent to the user’s device. The user’s facial image is matched by comparison with “a plurality of images corresponding to a plurality of users of a social networking system.” The payment system identifies the merchant, its location, and the user’s presence there with GPS data.

The method avoids requiring users to open a payment account or additional mobile application to make a purchase, while protecting user accounts against device loss and fraud, according to the filing.

In October, it was revealed that Facebook is testing a facial recognition system exclusively as a mechanism for recovering a locked account.

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