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MasterCard’s Identity Check: What happens when internet security meets selfies

Over the last decade or so, social media has given rise to strange and unpredictable cultural trends with dumb names. They seem to appear out of nowhere, take over the world for a few months, and then collect dust.

We’re talking about twerking; about saying ‘winning’ in a bad approximation of Charlie Sheen’s West Coast drawl every 35 seconds. Heck, there’s even this guy and his knack for theatrical seasoning.

Standing tall, looking down on all these silly preoccupations with a sneer is the selfie.

Apart from anything else, selfies are the bedrock of postmodern, lunatic, meta-comedy, celebrity cult weirdness, and have allowed Kim Kardashian to refer to herself as a published author. But when a company as huge as MasterCard gets involved, then it’s probably time to take everyone’s favourite form of narcissism a little more seriously.

Due to launch this year in Singapore and parts of Asia – having already been rolled out in several European markets, including Sweden and the UK – MasterCard’s Identity Check function will use facial recognition to verify online transactions.

It is an added measure of protection against digital fraud, a problem that Bob Reany, executive vice-president for identity solutions at MasterCard, has claimed to affect 40 million accounts.

According to a statement released on the MasterCard newsroom site the thinking behind the innovation is as follows:

Contactless cards, smartphones and smartwatches already enable new payment experiences in bricks and mortar shops. Online shoppers are expecting the same easy experience for their payments in online stores which is why MasterCard has developed this new technology. The digital check identifies users by using unique personal characteristics such as fingerprints or the face.

For a short demonstration of how the technology works, look no further:

Obviously MasterCard are playing up the convenience factor, as you’ll no longer need to remember all those pesky passwords.

But the main issue is one of increased protection rather than convenience, with online fraud being made ever easier by the information available on the dark web. MasterCard say that the gross fraud rate for online payments is more than three times higher than for physical transactions, while banks provide approval for only 83 per cent of online transactions rather than 96 per cent for physical transaction. This means that innovation in digital payment security is hugely important, especially seeing as the Asiaone news report on the subject states “the number of online and mobile transactions [is] expected to double to 40 billion by 2020”.

The main take away here is that if you have any particular moral opposition to taking photos of yourself, then you would be well advised to start using cash to pay for everything and keeping all your money in a pillowcase under your bed.

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Writer of words. Dreamer of dreams. Leader of men.

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