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Amazon patents use of facial recognition for e-commerce payments

16 March 2016 - 12:50 by Graham Miller

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Online shopping giant, Amazon, has filed a patent to cover the use of facial recognition as a kind of authentication to improve the security of transactions made by its customers, according to Sky News.

This process would be particularly convenient for making purchases online using a smartphone, since consumers would simply be able to snap a selfie using the front-facing camera of their handset, to verify that they are indeed the legitimate user of their Amazon account.

Facial recognition would, therefore, stand in for traditional password protection, with Amazon arguing that this should be significantly more secure than existing methods.

In the patent application, Amazon states that user authentication which relies on a password is easy to compromise because this information can be stolen and used by malicious third parties.

The application also argues against passwords because they are not especially user friendly when they are required on mobile platforms. Amazon claims that the compact nature of touchscreen displays makes entering information hassle for users, with facial recognition being a much more streamlined approach to payment.

The so called ‘selfie pay’ method is more complex than standard facial recognition tech, because it combines the ability to detect whether or not an image taken features the genuine customer, with a secondary layer of security achieved through the use of a second snap.

The idea is that users will take a front-on selfie and then an additional image which confirms that they really are the person in question, by altering the position of their head, the angle of the shot or even their facial expression.

Amazon is not the only company working on selfie-based safe shopping online payment authentication, with MasterCard running a similar trial in recent months. But if the e-commerce giant secures a patent for the tech, it could corner an emerging marketplace.