Google has now enabled facial recognition as a means of authentication on its Google Pay mobile payments platform.
The move is the result of Google’s recent launch of the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL smartphones. Whereas previous devices in Google’s Pixel line used fingerprint recognition as the primary means of biometric authentication, with the Pixel 4 devices, Google has emulated Apple in embracing 3D facial recognition, and abandoning fingerprint sensors altogether.
Just as Google Pay supports fingerprint recognition for transaction confirmation on older Pixel phones, it now allows users of the Pixel 4 to confirm payments via Face Unlock. This kind of biometric security isn’t required, if users would rather just enter a PIN to confirm a payment; but it is now an option for those who want a more convenient mechanism.
While biometric authentication is widely considered to be more secure than password and PIN-based security, there is at least one notable security vulnerability in Google’s Face Unlock system. In its current form, it doesn’t require a user’s eyes to be open for authentication to take place. As far as Google Pay is concerned, this opens the door to some worrying potential scenarios: for example, someone could authorize a peer-to-peer money transfer on another user’s phone by scanning the vicitim’s face as they sleep.
That having been said, such instances are likely to be rare, if they occur at all; and Google may soon deliver a software update that addresses this issue. In the meantime, the Face Unlock support could make Google Pay an even more convenient payment option for many Pixel 4 users, and may encourage further adoption of the payments platform as mPayments continue to catch on.