Pay With a Selfie: Why Google, Amazon, and MasterCard Want Us to Do It

MasterCard and Amazon will both be incorporating further biometrics into their verification and payment systems, and as Google rolls out its Hands Free program, Apple is rumored to be keeping pace. Those further biometrics include, but are not limited to, eye- and facial-recognition capabilities — which, in effect, means you’ll need to get used to posing for selfies. It’s somewhat ludicrous to imagine. Consider, say, a line in a taco place. Then wait in line to pay; the “cashier,” who’s no longer actually a cashier, asks the next customer to step forward. Instead of pulling out his or her wallet to grab cash or a card, said customer merely stares into a camera, blinking or winking once or twice to truly verify his or her identity, and then calmly retires to a corner to await three subpar tacos. And yet — this may indeed be a future we’ll soon behold, ludicrous though it now may seem. Google’s Hands Free system operates on the assumption that people hate digging around for cash, pulling out and swiping cards, pressing extraneous buttons, and signing receipts Hands Free will not make you take selfies, but it will employ facial recognition. In one instantiation, your mobile device communicates with the participating store’s (now-defunct) cash register. After completing your order, you merely say “I’ll pay with Google.” The “cashier” then sees your Hands Free profile picture and verifies that it’s really you — and that’s it. In the other instantiation, the vendor will have a facial recognition camera and system that scans your face, compares it with your profile picture’s biometrics, then verifies your identity. (This tech is now live in — where else — select parts of San Francisco. At the moment, you can only use it at participating McDonald’s and Papa John’s stores.) As for Apple, rumors abound. Ming-Chi Kuo, a KGI Securities researcher renowned as an Apple prophet, says that the iPhone 7 will be able to recognize you in all your glory. These rumors gain some traction, albeit limited tracking, with Apple’s latest intellectual property acquisitions. Earlier this year, Apple acquired a facial- and emotion-recognition start-up called Emotient.