Frictionless payments mirror the concerns over e-commerce a few decades ago. When the maturity of browsers in the late 1990s was making websites more than digital posters and getting us all into e-commerce, a constant refrain was that it was not advisable to put one’s credit card details online—fraudsters might start using your credit card.
Today, we willingly enter our credit card details on many online sites and cannot imagine not having that convenience. This is due to advancements in network connections between browsers and servers, and credit card companies underwriting any fraudulent transactions. Online retailers also cannot imagine not having that fluidity of commerce. Always, where there are concerns about security, value and convenience to customers seems to win it.
Today’s recurring debate is with authentication, in particular, facial authentication, or “fauth.” There are many instances when service providers need to validate who we are and be able to do it quickly. They also need to do it without the passing of “government-issued IDs” which seems to be the “gold standard.” However, if transactions are happening online or need to be done without burdening the customer with physical IDs, an easier authentication method is needed. In addition, these “gold standards” themselves require authentication because they are easy to fake. Authenticating a person by inspecting their IDs simply moves the problem from the person their “government-issued IDs.” Why not authenticate the person directly?
Facial authentication is a very convenient mechanism to provide quick, convenient authentication with full consent. All the concerns around facial recognition, in particular around misidentification by law enforcement, are legitimate. However, customers are using Fauth, providing their full consent in exchange for convenience and speed of transaction.
Acceleration of Technology
Covid-19 has accelerated Fauth because there is a need to authenticate someone without touching anything or inspecting documents. Today, we swipe or tap a keycard. Or worse, we stand in line to show a government-issued ID to a security guard looking to process people quickly, and isn’t really looking to fully authenticate the ID. Instead, it’s much easier to simply show your face to a camera for instant authentication.
Loyalty programs and retail transactions could make frictionless payments linked with a customer securely and automatically, without even getting payments (cash/credit card/loyalty card, etc.) produced—your face can “make the payment.”
During these challenging public health times, as increasing testing for Covid-19 or other maladies become more frequent, these “health transactions” must be executed with full and secure authentication. Test results of one person linked to another person can spell disaster for public health at large.
In addition, increasingly more customers will willingly provide registration images to various vendors and services simply for the convenience. Our digital facial likeness is already in the wild. Either by our own involvement in social media or by a multitude of government and various regulatory bodies that reuirq our faces for various government documents. Therefore, not using my face for Fauth is not preserving my privacy. The absolute privacy of my facial likeness is long gone. In fact, I’d much rather have important transactions authenticated by using my face so that my credit card or passport are not misused.
The New Normal
Just like the credit card quandary melted away, we see the improved convenience of transactions at toll booths in the last 2 decades. From the early days when car owners paid to have transponders in their vehicles in order to speed up their commute, today, license plates can be scanned and the car’s owner billed for the convenience, we’ve seen the shift in behavior. As people, we want to decrease friction in our daily lives. We avoid having to roll down car windows, find exact change, and pay a toll in frigid winter weather. This makes this a prime target for automation that comes by way of the transponder or license plate.
Frictionless payments with FAuth will go the way credit cards online and car tolls did—the convenience is too great. As the customer risk is very limited, Fauth will increasingly become the standard person authentication.