Visa has announced a new specification that will integrate biometric authentication into EMV chip card transactions. The specification will be tested in a major South African bank, with Visa aiming to eventually submit it to EMVCo, the regulatory group managing EMV specifications.
Visa’s solution has a strong focus on security. It’s structured to let fingerprints be scanned, encrypted, and then validated. Importantly, it uses match-on-card authentication in which the biometric data is validated directly on the EMV chip card, rather than being transmitted to another server and database; though card issuers have the option of authentication via their own secure systems for transactions taking place within their own environments – in the case of ATMs, for example. And the specification is also compatible with palm, iris, voice, and face modalities.
The specification will be tested out in a pilot project this fall through Absa Bank, a Barclays Africa Group subsidiary, but eventually it could apply much more broadly; currently there are 3.3 billion chip cards used globally.
Visa’s efforts in this area reflect the company’s increasing interest in advanced security for transactions, especially as more payments go digital and contactless. Last year, Visa joined the FIDO Alliance’s board of directors, putting it in a better position to help shape security standards, and earlier this year, Visa’s European division announced it was working on a tokenization security system for payments. More recently, the company has been exploring biometric security more intensively, and this new specification appears to be a natural outcome from those efforts.