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Mastercard harnesses the power of selfies for new Check Mobile payment technology; plus PayPal research

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Mastercard is bringing new payment technology to Europe that uses fingerprints and facial recognition – through selfies – to verify a cardholder’s identity in a move that it says will make online shopping simpler.

The Check Mobile application is currently being introduced into 12 European markets, including the UK following trials in the Netherlands, the US and Canada. It will be rolled out across the world next year.

Mastercard says existing identify verification methods take shoppers away from a retailer’s website or mobile app and require them to remember and enter a password. Transactions can be declined if the password is incorrectly entered.

The new system, Mastercard Identity Check Mobile, means cardholders can instead verify themselves by using their smartphone’s fingerprint scanner, or taking a selfie photo, confirmed through facial recognition technology.

“We are relentlessly focused on making the online payment experience near frictionless, without making any compromises on safety and security,” said Ajay Bhalla, president of Enterprise Risk & Security at Mastercard. “This is a significant milestone in the evolution of payments. Shopping in person has been revolutionised thanks to advances like contactless cards, mobile payments and wearables, and now we are making Identity Check Mobile a reality for online shopping in Europe, and soon, the world.”

Commenting on the news, John Rakowski, director of technology strategy at AppDynamics, said: “While many customers might be reluctant to take a selfie to authorise a payment, the technology itself will be widely familiar. After all, multiple generations have become used to facial recognition technology, whether on Snapchat or at e-passport gates in the airport. But will this new feature be all that convenient in day-to-day life? Failing to take a security-recognised selfie in a supermarket queue won’t make you popular with shoppers, especially those used to speeding through the checkout thanks to contactless payments.

“The success of this new technology will depend greatly on user experience. In order to win over users, Mastercard’s app needs to run invisibly and be ready to anticipate behaviour based on contextual data, such as the tilt of the phone. The technology will only catch on if customers feel comfortable enough to use the app, it feels intuitive and meets performance expectations.

“For Mastercard’s tech team, what the customer does before and after the payment is as important as the transaction itself. For example, if biometric fingerprint technology is used in conjunction with the selfie across a quick succession of bill payments, performance issues might arise. When an app packs in during the middle of a transaction, the customer is often left in the dark, and won’t know if the payment has gone through, causing more issues than the new feature sets out to solve.”

• The news comes as PayPal research finds that UK small businesses are missing out on sales by not keeping up with customer demand on payment preferences for goods and services. It found that small businesses prioritise more traditional methods of payment like cheque and cash, whereas consumers prefer digital wallets, contactless payments and to use their smartphone in making payments.

It questioned 2,000 small businesses and more than 2,000 consumers, and found that two in five (44%) small businesses have never reviewed how they take payment from their customers and when it comes to doing business online, many small businesses are missing out on the smartphone revolution, and are left behind by customers who are enthusiastic about the convenience of new technology.

Mobile shopping is growing at nearly four times the rate of overall online spending in the UK, says PayPal, and a fifth of consumers most frequently buy goods or services online using their smartphone. However, found the study, only 17% of small businesses have a website designed for access on a smartphone and just 4% have a mobile app that takes payments.

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