Mastercard's working on selfie-based security for online payments

Instead of typing a password, you’ll soon be able to smile for the camera.

Mastercard is working on a new app that provides extra security when buying things online. But instead of just demanding a password, the app will offer to verify your identify with a selfie.

The app is coming this summer for phones, tablets, and PCs, and will be available in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark, the BBC reports. Mastercard has been testing these capabilities since last summer.

With selfie checks, users will have to blink for the camera to prevent against spoofing the system with a photo. Alternatively, users will be able to verify themselves with a fingerprint, through systems like Apple’s Touch ID. Mastercard says it will transmit this data in a way that can’t be stolen or used by scammers.

In most cases, online purchases don’t require extra verification, and simply entering credit card details is enough. But on occasion, Mastercard may ask for a password when it suspects a fraudulent transaction. Users who have Mastercard’s app installed will receive a notification, asking them to pose for the camera or scan their fingerprint. (Whether users actually take the time to install this app is another matter.)

The idea is to create a more convenient system for verifying identity, allowing the credit card company to prevent fraud more often. As the BBC notes, the costs of fraud typically get passed onto merchants in the form of higher transaction fees, so a better system could potentially lower those fees (or yield greater profits for the credit card company).

Why this matters: Biometric identification is quickly becoming the norm on mobile devices, as both iOS and Android now support in-app payments with just a fingerprint. Mastercard’s plan sounds like a catch-all for websites that don’t have biometric capabilities built-in, and for phones that don’t have fingerprint readers. Although selfie-based verifications aren’t foolproof, they at least provide an extra layer of protection against stolen credit card details.

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