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Amazon patents a technology that lets customers pay by taking a selfie

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 9:14PM EST
Amazon Selfie Patent

More so than most, Amazon has every reason to try and make the check out process as seamless as possible. After all, sometimes all a consumer needs is the slightest of hurdles before getting cold feet and reconsidering a purchase. That being the case, it might not be all that surprising to learn that the company that pioneered one-click purchasing has come up with a way for consumers to complete the checkout process by taking a selfie.

Yes, the selfie age is upon us and Amazon is joining the party with a decidedly commerce-oriented twist. According to a recent patent filing, the online retail giant describes an implementation of facial recognition software that would enable shoppers to use their own face in place of a password when finalizing a purchase. In other words, think of it as Touch ID but for your face instead of your finger.

DON’T MISS: How to see exactly how much money you’ve spent at Amazon in your life

As for why such a technology might be useful, Amazon notes in its patent filing that traditional passwords can easily be stolen or discovered by third parties. Not only that, entering in a sufficiently strong password isn’t always convenient or user friendly when using a small device like a smartphone.

Somewhat comically, Amazon even makes a point of noting that entering in a password can sometimes require a user to “turn away from friends or co-workers” as to keep the password private, a scenario “which can be awkward or embarrassing in many situations.”

Now one of the more interesting aspects of Amazon’s patent is that it came up with a way to prevent crafty individuals from holding up a photo of a person’s face to authorize a purchase.

Amazon’s patent explains the underlying problem thusly:

The facial recognition process can often be spoofed by holding a picture of the user in front of the camera, as the resulting two-dimensional image can look substantially the same whether taken of the user or a picture of the user.

To combat this, Amazon came up with an interesting solution. The patent details a process by which a mobile device can prompt a user to perform a certain action, such as smiling or blinking an eye, to not only authenticate the identity of the user, but to also ensure that the image being analyzed is from a real live person, not a photo.

Notably, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard of a company expressing interesting in using selfies to authenticate a purchase. As we covered this past July, MasterCard is also working on a small pilot program wherein consumers can confirm a purchase by taking a selfie to authenticate their identity.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.