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Strike a Pose: Amazon Files Patent for Selfie Payment

Amazon is on track to take over the world of retail and its latest effort wants to make it easier for shoppers to spend.

Re/code reported Monday that the online retailer filed an application with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office back in October for a process that would allow people to pay for goods by posing for a selfie using their smartphone in order to verify the purchase, rather than entering a password.

Amazon’s reasons for this technology are two-fold. The first: cybersecurity. “While many conventional approaches rely on password entry for user authentication, these passwords can be stolen or discovered by other persons who can impersonate the user for any of a variety of tasks,” the filing explained, noting that people often choose short and simple passwords that can be easily hacked.

The second motive could be considered trivial by many: “The entry of these passwords on portable devices is not user friendly in many cases, as the small touchscreen or keyboard elements can be difficult to accurately select using a relatively large human finger and 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.”

That’s not to say selfie payments are completely safe. As the patent application pointed out, facial recognition technology could be tricked by holding a picture in front of the camera. That’s why Amazon’s idea could also prompt the user to blink, smile or tilt his or her head in order to authenticate identity.

It’s not the first time a company has come up with a new use for a front-facing camera. A few weeks ago, MasterCard announced that after successful piloting a biometric payment method in California and the Netherlands, it would roll it out to customers in the U.S., Canada and parts of Europe later this year.