Those tech users who keep up with the advancements happening in mobile device platforms, biometric identification, and other similarly innovative protocols might not be surprised by some of the new approaches to protecting consumers’ identities, but even this one seems like something straight out of the movies. MasterCard has announced it’s in the testing phase and is about to launch a new biometric PIN system. First rolling out for feedback with approximately 500 customers, the company plans to morph security technology with the latest craze: selfies.


Yes, MasterCard is launching a payment system based on its mobile wallet app that will allow users to upload a selfie (or use their fingerprint) instead of entering a PIN number on the keypad. The idea behind the move is that your face is a) always with you and b) uniquely yours.

So what could possibly go wrong? Plenty, according to some experts.

No, we’re not talking about the latest cyberthriller where the thief steals your phone and peels your face off as well. The reality is far.. scarier? Security experts have warned that MasterCard intends to store the images of your selfie as “secured” algorithms, but hasn’t indicated how they’ll keep hackers from accessing your photo if they ever infiltrate the accounts.

There are the usual (and genuine concerns), of course. Privacy is the top issue, with skeptics wondering how hard it would be to snap a video of the victim just before stealing his phone, then use that video as the mechanism to provide the PIN number. It would have to be a video, since the app would require the user to blink his eyes once in order to prove it’s not a stored photo. Of course, there are also critics warning that storing this kind of facial recognition data is beyond stupid on MasterCard’s part since it provides a very lucrative target for hackers.

“I understand why they’d want that data, but no, I do not like it,” said Robert M. Lee, co-founder of consulting firm Dragos Security. “From a privacy aspect it’s awful — but from a business perspective, I don’t understand why they’d accept that risk.”

Unfortunately, the younger generation of tech users is already crying fowl over this new method of identification, claiming it’s nothing more than a ploy to appeal to the selfie-taking demographic. The notion that the credit card giant can reach out to younger consumers through their own vanity was pioneered by none other than Ajay Ballah, MasterCard’s head of innovative solutions for security challenges, in an article with CNN Money. In that article, Balla is (vapidly) quoted as saying, “The new generation, which is into selfies … I think they’ll find it cool. They’ll embrace it.”