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Mastercard’s ‘smile to pay’ system raises privacy and security concerns

Mastercard is introducing its new ‘smile to pay’ system whereby consumers can pay with their biometric data.

Biometric technology has increasingly become more popular, being used in services such as Apple’s FaceID, Apply Pay, and airport smart gates. To gain a foothold in the biometric market, Mastercard is pushing for its new system where users will need to merely smile at a camera or wave their hand over a reader to pay for goods and services. Mastercard claims that its ‘smile to pay’ system will “speed up payments, cut queues, improve hygiene, and provide more security than a standard credit or debit card.”

However, a senior lecturer in law at Macquarie University, Rita Matulionyte, has raised concerns over the privacy and security aspects of this new system. Despite Mastercard acknowledging data and security concerns, the criterion for biometric authentication is not yet public. As it is currently understood, when paying for goods or services, a customer’s face will be matched with stored data to verify their identity. Additionally, the face is still scanned even waving one’s hand. There are many concerns about who will manage the databases of the biometric data, how accurate the data will be, and how easy it will be to breach said data. A user cannot change their smile but can update a password.

The ‘smile to pay’ system will be an opt-in choice, but Mastercard ran a survey which determined that 74% of consumers have a positive attitude towards biometric technology. Trial runs of Mastercard’s new system are already being tested in Brazil and are soon to be rolled out into the Middle East and Asia.

Would you trust Mastercard with your face and biometric data?

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