Could Facial Recognition Eliminate Passwords By 2020?

October 7, 2015, Written By John H. Oldshue
Handsome young man making a selfie picture with phone, isolated over gray background

Is it possible that selfies could replace passwords within five years? The security gurus at MasterCard think that could happen.

“I think it will take three to five years for passwords to die out,” Ajay Bhalla, president of enterprise security solutions at MasterCard, told The Telegraph. “Any new technology takes a little bit of time to go global, but in the developed world, because it’s so consumer-friendly, the take-up and the adoption rate will be much higher than you’ve seen in other technologies.”

MasterCard and other credit card providers have been working on facial recognition and other biometric identity verification platforms for years. The theory is that passwords are too hard to remember or too inconvenient for the modern consumer. Fingerprint analysis is convenient, but it has proven to be insecure and unreliable. Advanced facial recognition, like the technology used in MasterCard Identity Check, aims to eliminate this inaccuracy.

MasterCard began testing “Selfie Pay” in the United States in September with First Tech Federal Credit Union. With Selfie Pay, an account holder simply takes a photo of himself on his phone to verify he is, in fact, the owner of the device. The picture is compared to the one already in MasterCard’s database to determine the validity of the transaction.

According to a survey commissioned by MasterCard, 53% of consumers forget important passwords at least once a week, costing them an average of 10 minutes each time to reset their passwords and start fresh.

While this may seem like a matter of pure inconvenience, that missed time translates to lost money for online retailers. One third of respondents said they abandoned their online purchases completely as a result of forgetting their passwords. 60% said they missed out on time sensitive purchases, like auctions and concert tickets, because they forgot their password.

“More than 50% drop the transaction by the time they reach the payment page.” said Bhalla. “It could be because of all kinds of reasons, but one of the reasons is because they find it very inconvenient–they can’t remember the password, by the time they remember the password the page lapses, they have to connect again, and there is a huge dropout for merchants.”

The information contained within this article was accurate as of October 7, 2015. For up-to-date
information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website.