Seattle-based etailer and cloud provider Amazon recently filed a patent application for a pay-by-selfie technology that would allows shoppers to make purchases with photos/videos, instead of typing a password for their accounts.
Though more secure than passwords, pay-by-selfie—and any visual or biometric identification technology—could open up a slew of new privacy and security concerns. For example, unlike passwords or credit card numbers, fingerprints and other biometric data cannot be replaced if they’re stolen.
In details provided in the patent, a phone or computer “can prompt the user to perform certain actions, motions, or gestures, such as to smile, blink, or tilt his or her head.” This would hypothetically prevent data theft situations such as a bad actor using a photo to impersonate a shopper.
“As people are utilizing computing devices for an increasing variety of tasks, there is a corresponding need to improve the security available for these tasks,” said Amazon in its patent application to the U.S. Patent Office. “The entry of these passwords on portable devices is not user friendly in many cases … and 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.”