Mastercard will launch its “selfie pay” system in the Asia-Pacific region next year, expanding the global reach of its biometric identity-verification service for online payments to more markets as part of a gradual worldwide rollout.

Mastercard Identity Check Mobile, which leverages smartphone technology for biometric authentication, gives users the choice of taking a selfie or scanning a fingerprint to verify their identity when checking out on mobile e-commerce sites. The service will be available in Thailand and other key Asian markets soon, a Mastercard spokesperson said.

Mastercard began testing the mobile identity-verification service last year and it’s rapidly expanded to reach 14 countries in Europe, the U.S. and Canada.

A demonstration of Mastercard Identity Check, or "selfie pay"
A demonstration of Mastercard Identity Check, or "selfie pay" Bloomberg News

In recent surveys consumers—particularly millennials—said they already are very comfortable with taking selfies, which could help drive consumer adoption of the camera-based approach to verifying identities while shopping online, analysts say.

“The selfie approach is a good way to add security to online payments,” said Julie Conroy, a senior analyst with Aite Group. But it’s best used in combination with other layered approaches to security because it’s not foolproof, she warned.

“We’ve seen facial recognition spoofed, but it’s hard to do at scale if you’re combining it with robust device-identification because it’s very hard to spoof both of those things at once,” Conroy said.

Conroy expects to see broader use of selfies for verifying consumer identities because of the simplicity of the process, noting: “The selfie pay approach is leveraging a behavior that a whole swath of the consumer population does on a regular basis anyway.”

Not all customers may be ready to embrace selfies, however, Conroy said. “We do see selfies playing better with millennials than older generations, which is why many companies leveraging the technology are giving the consumer the choice of the authentication approach they’re most comfortable with.”

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