Alibaba app enables people to make mobile payments using selfie

E-commerce giant Alibaba has demonstrated an app that will allow mobile shoppers to use selfies as authentication when making payments

E-commerce giant Alibaba has demonstrated an app that will allow shoppers to use selfies as authentication when using a mobile to make payments.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma used the annual CeBit event in Hanover, Germany, to show off the app. It approves mobile payments by matching a photo taken by the user at the point of purchase to a stored profile photo.

He said Smile to Pay, as it is known, will be rolled out in China first, and later in other countries. “Online payment to buy things is always a big headache,” said Ma. “You forget your password, you worry about the security.”

The app is being developed by Alipay operator Ant Financial, which completes 80 million transactions a day from its 300 million registered users.

Biometric security apps are on the up, in reaction to consumer demand for highly secure but easy-to-use security.

Recent research from Visa Europe found that 75% of 16 to 24-year-olds, or Generation Z, said they would have no problem using biometric security, with 69% expecting it to be faster and easier than a password or a PIN.

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While mobile device makers such as Apple and Samsung are using fingerprint authentication for payments, there are other biometric security developments in the finance sector. Halifax is testing a technology that identifies customers by their heartbeat to allow them access to banking services. The building society said the technology could be more secure than using fingerprints to access accounts. 

In a demonstration video, a Halifax spokesman said the technology is still in development, but could be used in the future to make account access easier and more secure.

Meanwhile, Spanish bank CaixaBank is enabling mobile banking customers to make transactions using a voice-controlled app and MasterCard said recently that it would launch a biometric authentication and verification pilot this year as part of a $20m budget increase on improving cyber security technology.

Read more on IT for financial services

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