We knew that “pay by face” couldn’t be that far into the future, and as this year has proved, the ability for computers to recognize our faces and then link our credit card information to that image was closer than even we imagined.

Pay by Face Technology

Last week, Uniqul, a Finnish start up company, unveiled a YouTube video that demonstrates its new pay by face authentication technology. In short, your face acts as your credit card. As you’re checking out, you give a “meaningful nod” to the scanner instead of swiping your debit or credit card. The scanner then uses your biometric information to confirm you are who you say you are. At that point, if it’s satisfied, it deducts the money from your bank account.

It’s not exactly practical, at least, not yet. Despite the lack of practicality, there are more than a few companies that are working on the technology; in fact, some have perfected it as far as it goes. Of course, many of us are already doing things we never thought we would: using our phone to check out, for instance. PayPal allows its users to check out using their login information in many retailers.

Privacy Concerns

But facial recognition, or pay by face technology? Seems a bit far fetched, not to mention the problems privacy advocates have already brought to the surface. Those are very real problems, of course, but these companies insist they can address those concerns. At some point.

Then there is the expense to the stores and service providers to incorporate the technology, including the face scanning screen. If companies are dreading the new chip technology, imagine the concerns that this high technology are sure to bring about.

Smile for the Facial Recognition Camera

Is it really as simple as smiling at a camera-like device?

In the background our algorithms are processing your biometrical data to find your account in our database as you are approaching the cashier,

the company explained in a press release this past Friday. The presser goes on to explain that the transaction – from start to finish – is completed with five seconds. Five seconds! It takes most of us that long to locate our wallets.

Are we really pressed for time that we’re willing to go to these extreme measures? And once the novelty wears off, and you know it will, then what? What incentive do companies have to stay current with the technology? What justification exists for them to sink thousands into repairs that are inevitable? And what about insurance companies? Zero fraud liability policies most banks and credit cards offer?

Remember, too, that even in the best circumstances, not every retailer or company will invest in the facial recognition technology. That means we’re not exactly abandoning our traditional debit or credit cards, we’re just adding another way to pay for goods and services. And let’s face it, how comfortable are we with allowing our faces to be scanned, sometimes many times a day? Ah… and then, if you’re like most folks, your credit card occasionally makes it out of your possession and into your spouse’s or teen’s hands. Can they be “added” into approved facial dynamics for an account? For that matter, many of us use our elderly parents’ credit cards to run errands for them. The possibilities are endless – much the way the questions being asked are.

Tremendous Costs

The costs are expected to be tremendous, even for users. You could agree to the technology and go on about your business, paying a monthly fee, and then learn that you can only use it in one or two places. What happens to all of that biometric data should you decide to cancel that option?

That’s a lot of questions, but ones that are going to need answers sooner rather than later. Diebold, which is based here in the U.S. is already introducing the facial recognition technology to ATMs. In this instance, you use your phone’s QR code (the square bar code boxes we’re seeing more of these days). This really brings into question the security considerations. In this instance, instead of typing in a pin, you simply take a step back for a quick facial scan and proceed with your withdrawal. No paper receipts either, which is good for environmentalists. Your confirmation comes via a text message.

Also, remember too that Germany just ousted Facebook’s facial recognition. This is Facebook. Imagine what happens when it comes to financial security. Germans had no say so over whether the software should be allowed. The odds of them having a say so with something like this is practically nil.

Square Technology

So what does this mean for the technology Square is already working on? It’s already leading the way because of its safer geo fencing technology. In this instance, your profile matches up with a retailer’s software. This tells the cashier who you are the moment you walk in. It doesn’t necessarily compromise your privacy in terms of bank or credit information, but it could go a long way in curbing robberies. Only when you check out do your phones kick in. From recommending products based on past shopping trips to coupons landing on your phone, this might be the kind of technology we can embrace. No worries about your privacy.

Regardless of how safe these products are or are not, there are bound to be growing pains. From a human nature perspective, we can expect to hear from introverts (and extroverts alike). Many people like to remain anonymous and they’re not going to take too kindly to being greeted by their first names. And yes – many people feel that way.

Many like the idea of their unique faces and they like it even more when they realize it’s not on a number of databases. Just because a computer can distinguish them doesn’t mean they should. So what are your thoughts? Creepy consumerism or totally cool Jetson- like technology? Let us know whether you’d use the latest and greatest in technology.