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article imageOp-Ed: Pay for your groceries with a selfie? Amazon is patenting it

By Paul Wallis     Mar 14, 2016 in Lifestyle
Sydney - This could be a great idea, or a gift for every Photoshop-inclined criminal hacker on Earth. The theory is that instead of passwords, you use a picture of yourself to pay for things. The logic takes a bit of getting used to.
The core idea is that like tapping your chip card, the selfie is an instant recognition option when you shop. It’s not technically at all impossible; facial features include unique identifiers. That part stacks up quite well. Alibaba and MasterCard are working on similar methods.
The theory, however, seems a bit misguided. According to
The current application aims to make it safer for shoppers to buy something online by relying on images of themselves instead of a password, which can be hard to remember and dangerous when stolen, and also apparently something that can come between friends. also quotes someone but doesn’t cite a source, referring to the difficulty of passwords, “embarrassment” and other issues which may or may not be issues.
A few questions, based on this timeless wisdom:
*… And in a world where phone cameras are ubiquitous, how do you avoid copies by scammers? You only need one photo to be publicly available to define facial metrics. Anyone can create a simple pic which ticks all the boxes for the security check. Simply load it up, give it to someone who looks relatively similar, click and produce the fake picture. Easy. Then expect the $7.50 an hour saint on the checkout to go nuts checking out the selfie for corresponding matches. Not so easy.
* Do you have to take a pic every time you shop? That could be downright bizarre. Imagine your local grocery store, with everyone taking selfies.
* What about pic quality, cosmetics, angles, etc.? These don’t affect facial metrics at all. The real problem, however, is that your phone may give you cues to blink, “tilt your head”, or other actions.
Sounding more like a freak show by the minute, isn’t it?
Some business issues
The cost of introducing yet another payment system will go down well with businesses around the world. Who needs cyanide, when you have “innovation” to do it all for you?
To start with –
1. People have been using passwords for decades; they’re no more, or less, secure than ever. Is remembering a password or PIN number really that hard?
2. How is this better than Secure Socket Layer standard payment processing, which uses 3 levels of security as baseline security checks?
3. Who checks these things, if something goes wrong, and you get scammed?
4. What consumer protections are available?
5. What if you take a selfie, and your payment is refused because you have a medical condition, have lost a lot of weight, or for some technical reason? What’s a customer to do, if they can’t spend their own money?
6. How do you sell this idea, and to whom? Will people think, “Of course! I’ve been doing my shopping all wrong, for all these years. What I need is to take selfies of myself in public, whenever I go shopping.” The current marketing theory is that you sell it to people having great fun shopping – That lets out about 95% of routine, budget-neutered, shoppers.
Sorry guys, I think this idea needs more thought and less gimmick. There are a lot of possible problems which consumers and businesses won’t appreciate. For practical purposes, something as trivial as a flat phone battery could be a no-ID situation. Expand this idea to be what it is, a reworking of photo ID theory, and it’s not really that much better than a passport/driver’s license scenario.
Security can’t be guaranteed in the modern environment. Android phones just had a massive hack exposing security flaws last week. What if some very basic malware steals pics or other stuff on the phone? Another opportunity for ID theft leaves something to be desired, don’t you think?
Afterthought - wouldn't this be dataload-heavy? Like a few billion Instagrams, per second? Not good for servers, or is this another "the Cloud can do anything" deal?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Selfies used as shopping IDs, Amazon, Alibaba, Mastercard
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