GSMA slams ‘selfie’ mobile payment technology


Banks in London’s Square Mile said to have signed up to trial mobile payment service based on selfies

UK City banks rumoured to be trialling new technology that enables users to pay for goods and services using selfies and their smartphones have been slammed by the GSMA.

The GSMA has said the new technology, said to be from Socure, a provider of  real time online identity verification solutions, is not “really taking the needs of the consumer to heart,” according to Claire Maslen, financial services relationship manager at the GSMA. The GSMA reacted to the story published by the Daily Mail, saying it remains sceptical about the customer need for a selfie-based service and the benefits it delivers.

Socure’s technology, called Perceive, is a facial recognition system based on selfies and social media. It compares the face of a person with trusted online and social media profile data to confirm that users are who they say they are.

Yet Maslen commented on the news: “Biometrics are an undeniably useful tool for consumers. Using your fingerprint as a log in mechanism removes the need to remember multiple passwords, which we know is a major pain point for consumers. But unfortunately, in this case, the technology seems to be jumping on the biometric authentication bandwagon without really taking the needs of the consumer to heart.”

The technology within Perceive provides the capability to use the front-facing camera on standard smartphones to instantly recognise that person’s facial features. Those facial biometrics are then compared using a patent-pending entity resolution system from Socure to deliver an authenticity rating back to the requesting financial institution, which can then confirm an identity with greater confidence and security than ever before.

The GSMA instead advocated its own authentication and identity solution, Mobile Connect. Working with its operator partners, the GSMA has developed and brought to market Mobile Connect, which provides a secure, seamless and convenient consumer experience, with a consistent user interface and low barriers to entry across the digital identity ecosystem.

Maslen outlined the problems the GSMA sees with Socure’s service: “First, consider how long it would take to make a payment with this new service. You decide to buy something, head to the online checkout, then have to stop to take a selfie. This triggers a check on your social media accounts, and if you have similar selfies uploaded there, the transaction goes through. In a world where people are increasingly demanding one-tap or one-click payments, is this really that convenient?”

She continued: “Second, relying on social networks for authentication also poses significant drawbacks. For example, some online identity solutions will share your information with other digital service providers. This could put additional information about your spending habits at risk. Social network logins also do not rely on ‘real’ user identities, so the system could be intercepted and manipulated.

“Ultimately consumers want secure services, but without compromising on convenience,” added Maslen. She said the GSMA’s Mobile Connect – which uses authentic user data already held by mobile operators – provides a more secure method of authentication as the service relies on verified information that the consumer originally shared with the operator when signing up for their contact, such as their passport, so their identity is assured.

In the GSMA Mobile Connect Consumer Research Report released last week, the GSMA found that 39% of people have weekly problems logging in to services on their smartphones, suggesting the demand for a replacement for the traditional password is growing. But 55% of smartphone users also consider their online privacy a major concern. By relying on social network logins, the GSMA said this new service could actually pose new threats to the security of consumers’ personal data.


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