Biometric facial recognition in the payments industry: Legal issues

INSIGHTS

15 Sep 2022

In today's WH Insights episode, Davinia Cutajar, Partner WH Partners talks about some of the issues posed by biometric facial recognition in the payments industry. 

WH Insights is a video series discussing key legal concepts, trending legal topics, news and legal updates.

This video is not and is not intended to constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. It is intended for general information purposes only.

Transcript:
Many of us are already using contactless payments, just tapping our cards over a processor or holding our phones close enough to one to pay for purchases.

Now, imagine a world where your face, which would be pre-scanned to a system, was all you needed to show to make a purchase… wouldn’t that be nice when jogging or on the beach, so we wouldn’t need to carry anything valuable with us and still be able to buy ourselves a drink?

This will only be possible once biometric facial recognition becomes mainstream.

Facial recognition technology is not considered intrusive, unlike the use of fingerprints, for instance, and of course, it is more hygienic; so it is no wonder that China has already embraced this technology, with millions of people already using the facial recognition payment system set up by a convenience store.

South Korea is testing the technology on access gates at some train stations, allowing passengers to pay for their train tickets using their face, without having to take off their face mask.

And Europe and the US are not immune to the allure of this new technology, which is being embraced by banks and restaurants.

So: does facial recognition technology pose privacy problems or security issues?

While personally, I am enthusiastic about this development in the payments industry, it is easy to see how this technology could pose privacy or security issues. It also causes issues with anti-money laundering laws because selfies are not considered sufficient proof of identity, and these technologies often depend on you scanning your face to a system by basically taking a selfie without the need of video identification, without the need for video identification, to set up your account.

At the same time, many feel that using your face to pay for your purchases is no different to paying with your phone or contactless card since ultimately, you are still using a wallet to make the magic happen behind the scenes.

What do you think about facial recognition technology?