Say Cheese! Amazon Seeks Patent For Selfie Payment Authentication System

Amazon may have started as a simple online bookstore, but now two decades later, it's the largest Internet-based retailer in the U.S. That type of growth and sustained relevancy can only be had by keenly following trends and, when appropriate, creating trends of its own. They don't always have to big ones, either—Amazon patent the simple act of one-click buying in 1999, and now it's seeking a patent for a selfie payment authentication system.

Assuming the system would work, it would serve as a clever alternative to passwords, which Amazon points out "can be stolen or discovered by other persons who can impersonate the user for any of a variety of tasks." Amazon also argues in its patent application that typing passwords on tiny mobile displays is a hassle, often leading to inaccurate key presses.

Gorilla Selfie

This is where selfies would come into play. Rather than type in a password, Amazon's system would "prompt the user to perform certain actions, motions, or gestures" to prove his or her identity. These would be simple tasks, like blinking, smiling, or tiling one's head, as opposed to complex maneuvers like a back flip or doing the splits. This is key to Amazon's patent and what ultimately adds an additional layer of protection to a simple selfie.

"Certain approaches attempt to improve security by adding biometric identification. For example, a computing device might capture an image of a user and analyze that image to attempt to recognize the user using facial recognition software. Such a process provides only a certain level of additional protection, however, as 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," Amazon says.

On the surface it sounds a little silly to expect to shoppers to wink or smile into their phones to complete and online order, but is it really? Mobile shopping is growing at a phenomenal pace, and selfie apps like Snapchat are incredibly popular. All Amazon is doing is combining things that are already trendy with a security measure that could be more useful than a simple password.

It's also worth mentioning that Amazon isn't alone in viewing selfies as a form of identification. So is MasterCard, which last year sought to pilot a program that would approve online purchases by scanning images of a user's face.