But is face recognition technology today sophisticated enough to act as a reliable method of security for financial transactions?
PayPal has announced it is trialling a new mobile payment app that uses face recognition at the point of sale for retailers to visually check the customer's identity.
The trial, which is based in Richmond Upon Thames, UK with 12 retailers, is currently testing the app that works on iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8.
Customers check in on the app much as they would using FourSquare or FaceBook. They then select the shop from a list and at the point of sale their face and name appears on an iPad so the retailer can visually check to see if the person attempting to pay by mobile wallet is the person in front of them. When the transaction is processed, the customer receives a notification on their phone to let them know how much they have paid, as well as a PayPal receipt.
However, security specialist SecurEnvoy, a provider of two-factor authentication, has stated that the method being used by PayPal is not up to the security job. Andy Kemshall, co-founder and technical director at SecurEnvoy, said this service could create a security breach: 'Using face recognition to authenticate quick and convenient payments in shops and cafes seems ideal in our ever busy lives; however I have serious doubts about the security of this method. The completion of the transaction relies on the shop assistant verifying the customer's face – certainly a risky method of authentication that could easily be subject to human error be it accidental or deliberate. Using mobile phones to authenticate processes such as payments is the way forward; however, face recognition technology, as it stands, is nowhere near sophisticated enough to act as a reliable method.
'When you're providing a security service for your customers, it needs to be 99.9 per cent perfect, at the very least,' continued Kemshall. 'Biometrics is nowhere near that level of reliability, especially methods such as manual face recognition. Using technology within a device already owned by the individual, such as SMS authentication through mobile phones, is a more secure and cost effective method for organisations. It has a higher reliability rate and is far less prone to faults or replication from unwanted users trying to access an individual's details.'
Kemshall concluded: 'Using manual face recognition, in the way exhibited by Paypal to authenticate payment in store, is a clear case of running before you can walk.'
The Richmond check in pioneers include Cook & Garcia, TheFarmery, The Tea Box, The Bingham Hotel, Revolution, Caffé Paolo, The Cedar Coffee Shop, Urban Diner, Pier 1 Fish and Chips, Noble Jones, Hill Café and Knot Coffee and Pretzel. Rob Harper, head of retail services at PayPal, said: 'We're pleased to help local businesses of all sizes offer a new more personal experience, while never having to turn away customers who don't have enough cash on them to pay. Now locals in Richmond can leave their wallet or purse at home and be the first in the country to use their profile picture to pay.'