Amazon files patent for 'pay by selfie'

Mar 15, 2016, 4:41 PM EDT
(Source: David Phan/flickr)
(Source: David Phan/flickr)
Amazon has recently filed a patent application for a process that would allow users to purchase items by taking a photo and/or video of themselves — “selfies” — instead of using keyed-in passwords. The company already holds a patent for tech that allows a device to authenticate a user through his or her photo or video. This new payment system would require that users prove they are 3D people by requiring them to blink or move somehow in their selfies. Re/Code reports:
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.
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.
The system described in the patent uses biometric facial recognition software to confirm that the human in the picture is eligible to make the transaction.
Instead of having to type in a code, the user could simply hold out their phone and snap a selfie.
The patent also seems to look forward to a day when users could just look Amazon's digital assistant, Alexa, in the eye and be verified. It notes that other types of electronic devices beyond phones and tablets could also be used, including "personal data assistants."
Alexa is currently available on the Amazon Echo, Dot and Dash, none of which include cameras, but that could change in the future.
The Christian Science Monitor quotes Amazon’s application:
“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 variety of tasks,” explains Amazon in its patent application. 
“Further, 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.”