Alipay is going to use facial recognition to authenticate users for mobile payments, reports IDG’s Michael Kan in a PCWorld article. The announcement came by way of Jack Ma, the CEO of Alipay’s parent company Alibaba, who provided a few details in a speech at the Cebit trade fair in Germany.
Ma explained the development as a solution to the difficulties associated with online paymetns, which he called “a big headache,” adding, “You forget your password, you worry about your security.” He went on to say that in its facial recognition system, Alipay will offer users “a new technology.”
That’s true to an extent: Facial recognition technology has been around for a little while in forms such as the Android OS’s “Face Unlock” feature, but no mobile payment service has used it as a secure authentication tool. Apple, which has pioneered the use of biometric authentication, has relied on users’ fingerprints for payment authentication, via the TouchID system on all of its new mobile devices. Samsung seems likely to follow Apple’s lead in its own forthcoming mobile payment platform, while Google’s Android Pay will apparently forego biometric authentication altogether, for a little while, at least.
Given the memetic popularity of the ‘selfie’ among smartphone users around the world, Alipay’s system could prove popular, though how its security compares to the other systems remains questionable. According to Kan’s article, a social media leak from an Alipay-affiliated company has indicated that the new system will be called “Smile to Pay”.