For as long as passwords have existed there have been people trying to break them. Amazon wants to get around this common, and sometimes vulnerable, method of identification by using a technology that’s best described as ‘pay-by-selfie.’
First reported by Re/Code, the e-commerce giant’s “Image Analysis for User Authentication” patent describes using a process where a person can purchase something on Amazon using a photo and/or video of themselves, rather than their account password.
The patent application, filed in October and published last week, describes utilizing facial recognition software to confirm a person's identity. As a way of preventing someone from stealing a photo or video of the account holder in order to trick the system, users must perform an action, such as blinking an eye, smiling, or tilting their head, to verify that it’s actually them.
In addition to the security benefits, the patent talks about the difficulty some people face when trying to type long passwords, often with capitals and symbols, into mobile devices with small keyboards. Moreover, it goes on to state that ensuring nobody sees you type your password into a smartphone can lead to awkward social situations.
“The entry of these passwords … 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.” Some people obviously don’t trust their friends very much.
Amazon already holds a separate patent that allows a device to authenticate a person using a photo or video, but this new technology will allow users to complete purchases. And it won't be limited to smartphones, either; it can be used on several devices, including desktops, laptops, and tablets.
Like all patents, there’s no guarantee that this will become a real-world feature, but considering that it builds on a previous application, and other companies, such as Mastercard, are already piloting similar biometric identification technology, we may soon be paying for our Christmas shopping by flirting with a camera.