Selfie picture
Customers will have to blink into the camera to prove that no photograph is being held up in front of the camera lens Franck Fife/AFP

Mastercard is piloting a new transaction authentication system for its customers using biometrics. The new system called "selfie pay" replaces passwords with a selfie for online payments.

After conducting the software trial of the technology in the US and the Netherlands in 2015, the American credit card firm plans to roll out this service in 14 countries in the first half of 2016, including the US, UK and Germany.

"Consumers hate passwords. In the modern world, everyone has a mobile phone, and there is internet connectivity everywhere. So, we should be able to use biometrics [instead] to authenticate ourselves," Ajay Bhalla, head of Safety and Security division at Mastercard, told BBC, on the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress 2016.

Under the new system, when a customer performs a transaction online or through a mobile app, they will need to feed their credit card details into the system as usual. In the next step, however, they need not give out the password. Instead, they will be asked to choose between two biometric authentication system of selfie pay or fingerprint sensor. If the customer selects the selfie pay option, he/she will need to look at the phone screen for a selfie.

The customers will have to blink into the camera to prove that no photograph is being held up in front of the camera lens. The algorithms in this authentication use facial recognition, motion and other details of a transaction to authenticate the process.

The company is also testing a range of other biometrics for authentication methods, such as facial identification, voice recognition and cardiac rhythm. In an interview with IBTimes, Ann Cairns, president of international markets for MasterCard, talked about various cases of biometrics that the financial services firm is testing to build a robust system.

"We are also working with wristband developer in Canada called Nymia and this wristband actually measures your ECG, your heart. It's like reading your iris or your thumbprint but in this case it continually authenticates you. " She added: "With this persistent authentication you don't even have to do anything, you have got this wrist band on and when you make a payment you can just communicate with a terminal or something and say that's me."

Many banks and automotive firms are working on such innovative use of biometrics. In the third week of February, HSBC announced that it was working on a similar technology using voice and fingerprint recognition system for its internet banking customers.

A Research and Markets report highlights that in the next three years, the global mobile biometrics market would witness over 100% growth. The overall facial recognition market is expected to triple in size in the five years, growing from $2.77bn (£1.98bn) in 2015 to $6.19bn in 2020.