Mastercard's new selfie authentication looks to prevent hacking and theft while utilizing a growing, and popular form of photography.

The selfie. Few know how or why it became such a popular photo style, but there’s no denying that it’s caught on with consumers and manufacturers alike. Taiwanese manufacturer HTC has had something to do with its success, and Sony and Samsung, among others, have decided to hop aboard the trending bandwagon. At the same time, however, the selfie’s popularity has been just that: a nice photo style that doesn’t do anything except showcase the user taking the picture. That’s nice, but it isn’t enough to make the new photo relevant.

Mastercard, however, is looking to utilize the selfie in a way no one else has done before. The card company is creating its own selfie authentication for its own credit card. The new selfie authentication will allow users to take a picture in order to validate their identity, after validating the purchase of the item in question.

Mastercard understands the security concerns that come along with selfie authentication, one of them being the ability for hackers to “falsely validate” a purchase with someone else’s ID. Mastercard has a solution that’ll stop identity theft right in its tracks: the company says that users validating their ID will have to blink before the ID is authenticated, which means that a hacker using a false picture won’t be able to “blink” to validate the ID – and the purchase won’t go through.

Face detection has been valid on Android devices for some time now, and internet security firms and hackers have shown how easy it is to bypass face detection authentications. Some face detection software requires blinking in order to bypass it, but face detection has proven to be of low security when it comes to Android users (more users prefer a screen lock pattern to gain access). Even with Mastercard’s decision to include blinking, it’s also the case that a GIF of an individual (done with the help of a photo app or even through the use of someone’s Google Photos, for instance) could allow hackers to bypass authentication and gain access.

As to be expected, privacy advocates are not so keen on the service. Many believe that Mastercard is gaining access to too much data from users. The idea of selfie ID is that it’ll prevent theft, but privacy proponents say that Mastercard will be in the driver’s seat with regard to current photos and fingerprints that it gains from users. Mastercard has said that all information will remain on the phone and that it will only gain an algorithm for the user (not user photos and fingerprint info). Mastercard says that it intends to debut the selfie authentication on 500 users at first before it schedules a public rollout. In order to use the selfie ID feature, you’ll need to have the Mastercard app downloaded onto your smartphone.

Mastercard’s new feature, if it proves successful, will be one of the first photo ID features to bring increased relevance to photography on smartphones. The new selfie ID feature will be but one alternative for Mastercard customers (with fingerprint ID being the other). HTC’s front-facing 5MP camera in the HTC One M7 (2013) serves as a modern landmark for the potential of front-facing photography, and LG’s 8MP front-facing camera in the G4 is the largest front-facing camera to debut on a high-end smartphone yet. Sony is looking to bring a 13MP front camera to some of its newest devices, and “selfie” and soon, “We-fie,” will enter the English language as part of the common vernacular.

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