Amazon Files Patent Application for Pay-by-Selfie

Amazon, the e-commerce mega store, plans to verify buyers using selfies. Rather than using a password, selfie authentication ensures more online security for users, says the company, noting the inherent weaknesses with password authentication. Passwords can be stolen and used by impersonators, plus they are difficult to remember, and entering passwords on mobile devices is not the most user-friendly of endeavors because of the small touchscreens involved.

Online shoppers tend to keep a list of passwords on their devices, or choose short and simple ones that are easy to remember. These practices also make password authentication less than optimal from an identity protection standpoint.

Critics have questioned whether fraudulent payments could be made with the selfie system, but Amazon says that this cannot occur with a randomly generated verification process. In its patent application, the firm describes a process in which users are asked to perform specific motions, gestures or actions in view of the camera, which will help to verify that the image involve corresponds to an actual human being.

The system will be able to detect natural human movements, like blinking; if the movements cannot be deciphered for some reason, the system prompts users to blink only the left eye or make other specific motion. Additionally, a thermal image of the user’s face is captured, which is offers very different information than the image of a piece of paper, for example.

While selfie-pay sounds futuristic, other companies have already made the plunge. Google introduced an experimental mobile payment system designed to allow users to make payments without taking their phone out of their pocket. Hands Free utilizes Bluetooth, wi-fi, and location services to just tell a cashier “I’ll pay with Google.” And MasterCard has launched a payment system similar to Amazon’s in which a photo is taken every time a user buys something online. This system relies on eye blinks to verify the user’s identity.

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