Amazon Wants to Patent a Way to Pay With a Selfie

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Amazon has apparently filed a patent so that one day you might pay for your purchases with a selfie. 

There are problems with our standard security measures. Password-protected accounts leave a lot to be desired: They're vulnerable to brute-force attacks, and tiny keyboards on mobile phones can make it difficult to enter passwords anyway. 

Then there's biometric authentication, like scanning a thumbprint or using facial recognition software. It offers better protection than traditional passwords, but that data can still be spoofed. Someone wanting to gain access to a phone with facial recognition security could simply show the camera a photo of the phone owner to trump the system. 

Grammy selfies. Source: Getty Images
Grammy selfies.  Getty Images

What Amazon outlines in its patent is a step above a selfie. Rather than a simple headshot snap, this security program would use video to capture "motions, or gestures, such as to smile, blink or tilt [the] head" to validate a user. This way, Amazon's software could better verify the presence of the actual account holder. The patent also makes room for detection of infrared or thermal information in an image.  

The technology won't be limited to mobile phones or Kindle e-book readers, according to the patent. It looks like Amazon wants to make this authentication system widely available across devices, if and when it does roll out. 

While it may seem silly to pay with a video, it's certainly the direction in which payment companies are headed. MasterCard has already announced that it's toying with facial scanning technology to verify payments, and Google's new initiative Hands Free will require cashiers to check a person paying at the register against a Google profile photo.

h/t Recode