On 19 October 2015, Amazon filed a patent application for a process that would allow its customers to authenticate purchases with a selfie-photograph rather than a password. The application (Pub. No.:US 2016/0071111 A1) concerns a computer-implemented payment method using selfies in a two-step authentication: In the first step, buyers send a selfie to establish their identity. In the second step, they send another photo or video in which they blink, nod or open or close their mouth to confirm that an actual human being is attempting to be authenticated.
The invention is designed to ease the process of verifying transactions as consumers make more purchases online and via mobile devices. The process is also thought to be more secure than entering a password.
The patent application publication claims that as people are utilizing computing devices for an increasing variety of tasks, there was a corresponding need to improve the security available for these tasks. While many conventional approaches for user authentication relied on passwords, these passwords could be stolen or discovered by third persons.
Further, passwords were inconvenient since the entry of these passwords on portable devices was not user friendly in many cases. Among other things, typing on small touchscreens or keyboards could “require the user to turn away from friends or co-workers when entering a password, which can be awkward or embarrassing in many situations.”
It will take some time before this technology might be implemented on Amazon’s website. In all likelihood, third persons will also attempt to bypass this security mechanism. Thus, it remains to be seen, whether the level of security can and will de facto be increased. But when it’s ready, “pay by selfie” could mean a big change to how we shop online and use the camera on our phones. When you see someone taking a selfie, they might not being preserving a moment, but making a purchase.