Amazon wants the patent for pay-by-selfie

Jason Del Rey

First, Amazon patented one-click purchasing buying. Now it wants a patent for pay-by-selfie.

The Seattle-based e-commerce company recently filed a patent application for a process that would allow shoppers to make a purchase by taking a photo and/or video of themselves rather than keying in their account password. The application is related to a separate patent Amazon holds for a technology that allows a device to authenticate a user via a photo or video, but not necessarily to complete a transaction.

Credit: US Patent & Trademark Office

The current application aims to make it safer for shoppers to buy something online by relying on images of themselves instead of a password, which can be hard to remember and dangerous when stolen, and also apparently something that can come between friends.

"The entry of these passwords … can require the user to turn away from friends or co-workers when entering a password, which can be awkward or embarrassing in many situations."

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Just the worst. So because people don't want to be rude, some store their password on their phone or computer so they don't have to keep re-entering it for each purchase. But if someone else gets hold of that device, bad things can happen.

Which brings us to paying by selfie. Under the scenario in the patent application, a phone or computer "can prompt the user to perform certain actions, motions, or gestures, such as to smile, blink, or tilt his or her head."

This would be done to prove that the shopper is who he or she says, rather than an imposter simply holding up a photo of the shopper.

While this may sound like a joke today, it seems likely that safer and simpler replacements for the account password will eventually be commonplace. Others are working on it.

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A year ago, Alibaba chairman Jack Ma demonstrated what sounds like a similar technology, and MasterCard is rolling out a photo-based payment technology, too.

An Amazon spokesman has yet to provide comment.

By Jason Del Rey, Re/

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