February 26, 2024

Consumers’ faces could be used to help verify their payments in the latest moves to combat card fraud in stores.

A new security system could mean wearing sunglass or a new haircut stops you using your card in shops or online – this is why

Worldpay, which helps nearly half of the UK’s high street businesses to process card payments, is researching the possibility of embedding tiny upward-facing cameras into card readers that would take an image of a shopper’s face as then enter their pin.

This would be compared with an existing profile of the consumer linked to their card, to make sure that it matches up.

The ped cam (pin entry device camera) could provide an extra layer of security, so that if the existing profile does not appear to match that of the person trying to pay, they may be asked for extra identification.

How it would work

Card users would automatically be opted into the new facial recognition technology rather than registering for it.

Addressing potential privacy concerns, a spokesman for Worldpay said the move would not mean that photos of people are stored in its system. Instead, the images would generate “unique biometric templates”, so that consumers’ faces are mapped out.

A unique biometric template, linked to a particular person’s card, would be stored in a secure, central database managed by Worldpay.

Card terminals linked to the central database would capture a fresh image of the card user’s face each time they entered their pin, so that they build up a profile of that person over time as their face changes, improving identification.

Researchers stressed that the design is still in “concept phase”, with controlled trials currently taking place.

Online as well as in store

They are also exploring the potential of using the biometric profile captured by the device as a way of verifying card users’ identities online as well as in-store.

Nick Telford-Reed, Worldpay’s director of technology innovation, said: “Biometrics has attracted a lot of attention, but achieving sufficient scale has always been difficult in a face-to-face environment. It’s partly because of cost, but also because people don’t want the admin hassle of registering their details.

“With this prototype we would remove that hassle. Card users could be automatically enrolled in the system when they use their card. The design also means retailers would not have to find space for another device on their already busy sales counters.”

 The problems

Facial recognition is increasingly common – with everyone from Facebook to our passports now incorporating it.

The problem is that it relies on key pieces of data such as the distance between our eyes – and so can reject people for everything from wearing sunglasses, new haircuts or just looking the wrong way when the scan is taken.

Firms are increasingly exploring ways in which the human body can be used to help make payments more secure.

MasterCard is developing a system allowing you to purchase things using their face or fingers for authentication .

In March, Halifax confirmed it was investigating the possibility of customers being able to wear wristbands containing sensors which would be able to pick up their heartbeat and use this as a way of logging in to their mobile phone banking rather than having to enter a password.

Meanwhile, payments made through Apple Pay are confirmed using Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint scanner.

It’s not the first time finger-print technology has been used to pay for things in the UK – back in 2006 Co-Op trialled a “pay by touch” – letting customers pay using their fingerprint rather than a card.