MasterCard Beta Program Adds Voice & Facial Biometrics

  • Ian Kar
  • September 18, 2014
  • 0

141098013854815083567498_556e47e0f9_b-720x509MasterCard announced today in a press release that the card network has launched a pilot beta mobile app testing out new biometric features. The pilot program has been underway for some time, it seems.

The app was given to MasterCard employees around the world, both Android and iOS users, where they tested voice and facial biometric features in e-commerce transactions. The pilot program processed 14,000 transactions and had a successful verification rate of 98%. According to the press release, the process took about 10 seconds on average.

MasterCard cited the upcoming Apple Pay system that led to its own teams testing out biometric features internally. Not only does MasterCard hope that voice and facial biometrics will help users authenticate themselves without needing a PIN code or a password, but the hard part is extending biometrics to every customer around the globe. In the post, MasterCard wrote, “We have already had great success in Africa, with financial inclusion projects which use biometrics to identify millions of cardholders… Our challenge is to take lessons from the different applications of biometrics already in place and elevate them into the next generation of authentication, not just for one platform, but for the mass market globally.”

MasterCard isn’t the first company to work with voice or facial biometrics. Barclays recently expanded its voice biometric features, powered by Nuance Communications (the same company that helps Apple power Siri). We wrote:

Nuance doesn’t store the actual recording, [Nuance’s Brett] Veronic explained, but attaches a number of alpha-numeric values to each factor it uses to authenticate identity. Even if a hacker were able to access the storage database (housed by Barclays, not Nuance), all they would see is the alpha-numeric values, which are useless by themselves, according to Veronic…Not only is there no hardware that is not already part of the phone — as opposed to the fingerprint sensor, available on only a few devices — but it’s also dynamic.

USAA and US Bank also work with Nuance on voice biometrics.

There’s also Socure, a New York City-based startup working on facial biometrics. Similar to voice biometrics, facial biometric technology also attaches alpha-numeric values an image of the face. Socure compares a picture of yourself to social media images of you to verify your identity during online transactions, which could help banks and financial institutions limit fraud for younger users.

Traditional financial institutions and startups alike are interested in biometric security, especially those solutions that don’t require additional hardware. Major tech companies like Google could add software-based biometric security to mobile wallets for added security — an easy and cost-efficient way to add security to mobile transactions. Apple already has Touch ID and is expanding its biometric capabilities in iOS 8 and the Apple Watch.

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