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MasterCard to Use Selfies as Payment Authentication

MasterCard is flirting with a new method of biometric authentication: the use of Selfies as a way for cardholders to confirm online payments.

Beginning this fall, instead of submitting a password during an online transaction, consumers can simply snap a selfie with a smartphone. They'll also have the option to use their fingerprint by touching their device as a form of authentication.

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MasterCard is planning this move to cut down on credit-card fraud and present a fast, easy and unique method of authentication for consumers. The credit card giant also aims to offer an attractive feature for younger generations, who are often portrayed as selfie-obsessed.

"The new generation, which is into Selfies... I think they'll find it cool. They'll embrace it," Ajay Bhalla, MasterCard's president of enterprise safety and security, told CNN Money in an interview.

MasterCard will begin this initiative as part of a small pilot program that targets 500 cardholders, with hopes that it will be launched to the public soon after the initial trial. The card company has already partnered with major smartphone makers, including Apple, BlackBerry, Samsung, Google and Microsoft.

To take advantage of this feature, cardholders will begin by downloading the MasterCard app, and shortly after, a pop-up will appear asking consumers to choose a preferred way to authorize charges. There will be options for fingerprint authorization or facial recognition. Those choosing the option for facial recognition will be required to blink when taking their initial selfie, which, according to MasterCard's security researchers, is one of the best ways to prevent a thief from fooling the system.

The photo is then transformed into an algorithm, which is stored in MasterCard's computer servers.

Currently, MasterCard customers can use a program called "SecureCode," which requires a password to be submitted during online transactions. This program was used in an estimated 3 billion transactions last year, according to MasterCard.

Earlier this year, MasterCard announced plans to invest $20 million in technology to help combat cyber attacks and identity theft.

In the future, MasterCard doesn't plan to stop at passwords, fingerprints and selfies for extra layers of security. The card company has also shared a concept to incorporate voice recognition as authentication, requiring customers to simply speak into their phones. There’s also buzz that the company is in talks with a Canadian firm called Nymi to develop technology to authorize payments by recognizing a customer's unique heartbeat.

Soon, authenticating credit card payments can become even more personal, but MasterCard believes these new ways will bolster security and appeal to customers seeking unique ways to confirm their identity.

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