Mastercard launches biometric ‘smile to pay’ tech

18 May 2022

Image: © Diego/

Mastercard said its biometric checkout programme, now being tested in Brazil, will help set standards for new ways to pay at stores.

Mastercard is pushing into the controversial biometrics market, launching a new programme that will allow customers to make payments in stores using a smile or a wave.

Calling it the “next generation of in-person payments”, Mastercard said its biometric checkout programme will help speed up transaction times, shorten lines in shops, heighten security and improve hygiene.

It outlines a set of standards for banks, sellers and technology providers to ensure the security and privacy of personal data when people pay using biometric methods.

The payments giant said the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated a consumer desire for a “safe and quick touchless checkout” and 50pc of Mastercard in-person transactions were contactless at the end of 2021.

The company also referenced Idemia research that suggests 74pc of consumers have a positive attitude to biometric technology.

“The way we pay needs to keep pace with the way we live, work and do business, offering choice to consumers with the highest levels of security,” Mastercard cyber and intelligence president Ajay Bhalla said yesterday (17 May).

“Our goal with this new programme is to make shopping a great experience for consumers and merchants alike, providing the best of both security and convenience.”

The tech is being piloted in Brazil from this week across five St Marche supermarkets in São Paulo. Customers will have to enter their face and payment information in the Payface app before using the service. Then at the supermarket, they can smile to pay at the checkout, without having to take out a card or mobile device.

Future pilots are expected to launch in the Middle East and Asia.

“We’ve been developing Payface since 2018 with a mission to help transform the way people pay – improving the experience, without compromising on security,” Payface CEO Eládio Isoppo said.

The move will see Mastercard tap into the contactless biometrics market, which is expected to reach $18.6bn by 2026, according to KBV Research. The payments giant is working with partners such as NEC, Aurus, PayByFace, PopID and Fujitsu to launch and scale new checkout payment tech globally.

While paying with a smile could speed up checkout lines, concerns have been raised in recent years about facial recognition technology in terms of surveillance, privacy, consent, accuracy and bias. In February, the US Internal Revenue Service said it planned to end the use of facial recognition to authenticate users creating online accounts, after lawmakers raised concerns over the privacy implications.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic