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Amazon files patent for paying by selfie

Amazon has filed a patent application for technology that would enable users to pay for items by taking a selfie.

The technology giant, widely known for its online stores, has suggested in the patent filing that the move would improve web security as more tasks are undertaken online, and is far less likely to be hacked than a password.


(Carlos Osorio/AP)

The application was filed in October last year but has only been recently published, and would require users to take two photos of themselves to prove their identity.

“While many conventional approaches rely on password entry for user authentication, these passwords can be stolen or discovered by other persons who can impersonate the user for any of a variety of tasks,” Amazon’s submission to the US Patent and Trademark Office read.

“Further, the entry of these passwords on portable devices is not user friendly in many cases, as the small touchscreen or keyboard elements can be difficult to accurately select using a relatively large human finger, and can require the user to turn away from friends or co-workers when entering a password, which can be awkward or embarrassing in many situations.”

Amazon package

(Paul Faith/PA)

The e-commerce firm added that shortcuts for remembering passwords, such as saving them to a device, also made users vulnerable to hackers.

“In order to avoid typing in long passwords in such situations, users often have their passwords stored on their devices or enable information to be stored elsewhere such that an activity can be performed without manually re-entering the password. When using such an approach, however, another person having access to that device can impersonate the user for any task associated with the store password.”

Amazon logo

(Michel spingler/AP)

Amazon argues that its two-photo “selfie pay” system is more secure than some other processes that rely simply on facial recognition because it “can often be spoofed by holding a picture of the user in front of the camera, as the resulting two-dimensional image can look substantially the same whether taken of the user or a picture of the user”.

In contrast, the Amazon system will ask users to take one photo to prove their identity, and a second that proves they are a physical being by either moving their head, smiling or blinking.

Finance giant MasterCard has already run a pilot scheme that enables customers to pay for items on their smartphone by taking a selfie. The scheme was limited to 500 customers, who could also use the fingerprint scanner found in some smartphones to complete transactions.

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