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Facial recognition payments uptake in China modest, launched in Moscow Metro

Report sees several factors driving biometric payment adoption
Facial recognition payments uptake in China modest, launched in Moscow Metro

When Ant Financial announced it would spend hundreds of millions of dollars to promote the use of face biometrics for retail payment through its AliPay network in April of last year, it may have seemed the payments space was about to be disrupted. Analysts tell The Wall Street Journal, however, that the process has not caught on.

Face recognition payments have yet to become popular in China due to problems with cumbersome enrollment and concerns about the security and privacy of the data and images involved. QR codes remain the payment method of choice for many Chinese consumers. Sign-up with AliPay involves opening an app to activate the function, taking a selfie, and then entering digits from the user’s phone number or a one-time passcode (OTP).

WeChat also offers facial recognition payments, and both payment systems are offered by many retailers in the country. WeChat said in July that payments with its Frog devices, similar to AliPay’s Dragonfly, is increasing, and between 16 and 20 percent of Frog machine users pay with face biometrics.

AliPay has added enhancements to its system to grow its popularity, such as a function that makes people’s eyes larger and skin lighter in the display, though the image is matched without the filter effects.

A cashier at a supermarket chain told the Journal that roughly two people out of ten use it’s facial recognition payment system, and that some of them must take additional time to ensure effective image capture. Another consumer told the publication that while he makes payments with face recognition when shopping with an Alibaba subsidiary, he worries about data breaches at companies he is less familiar with, so does not use the payment method elsewhere.

Nearly 80 percent of Chinese people are concerned about possible breaches of facial biometric data, according to survey results announced last year. Another study suggested that first-time face biometric payment users did not understand the process and were concerned for their privacy.

Kneron says it has defeated WeChat and AliPay facial recognition payment systems with sophisticated 3D masks.

Moscow Metro to launch facial biometric payment in spring 2021

People riding the Moscow Metro may be able to pay with their faces by next spring, as The Moscow Times reports the city’s Deputy Mayor wrote in a weekly column that the biometric capability is planned for deployment to at least one turnstile in each station in early-2021. He also said no other mass transit system in the world has such a system working at scale.

The Moscow Metro is also planning to implement some 12,300 cameras with facial recognition to roughly 1,500 subway cars by the end of 2020.

Mass transit systems around the world are emerging as early adopters of contactless solutions, NEC New Zealand writes, citing a report from Visa. Nearly half of the surveyed in the U.S. say riding public transport poses a high risk due to COVID-19, so transit operators are going beyond mask mandates and disinfection to considering contactless payments, identification and boarding essential.

NEC NZ also considers the impact to the aviation and banking industries in the post.

Biometric payments expected to increase

Biometric payment adoption will likely be driven by PSD2’s strong customer authentication (SCA) requirement, along with ecommerce applications, device-based payments through FIDO protocols and fingerprint-enabled payment cards, The Payment Methods Report 2020 from the Paypers observes.

Payment with FIDO biometrics and biometric cards are examined in the 94-page report by FIDO Alliance Executive Director and CMO Andrew Shikiar and MRC Europe Managing Director Una Dillon, respectively.

The report notes that more than 50 percent of consumers in the UK say they will use biometrics for payments, and that banks around the world have begun “using facial recognition as a first authentication factor.”

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