Amazon, the online retail and technology company, is creating a new way for customers to verify their identity at checkout-- with a selfie. Using facial recognition software, Amazon hopes to eliminate password security measures, making purchases safer. Amazon has not launched this new innovation yet but the system would prompt users to blink or smile to ensure the right person is at the checkout, not a hacker or computer program. Facial recognition software is an expert system, increasing in popularity as security issues grow. It works through a series of algorithms that match computer data to human faces. The technology is used extensively in police surveillance to recognize suspects. Amazon strives to utilize the latest information systems available to provide the best customer experience. Online retail continues to increase in popularity and Amazon has certainly grown as a result. Amazon often takes an unconventional approach to IT in order to ensure customers are met with convenience and the company benefits overall. As the article points out, passwords are a dated technology that can easily be hacked and taken advantage of. Similarly, users often forget or lose passwords and must go through steps to recover web accounts. With facial recognition, both Amazon and the customer can feel safe making online sales and purchases. The artificial intelligence behind facial recognition software utilized by Amazon increases the human element technology often lacks. Other companies, including Master Card and Windows are also developing and employing facial recognition systems as a means of protecting user’s personal technology accounts and diminishing fraud.
In viewing this technology from all sides, it is important to note that facial recognition software assumes users have access to a smartphone or personal computer with a high definition camera. While it is true many American consumers use smartphones, not all of Amazon’s customers will be able to pay with a selfie. Another possible downside would be the technology failing. If the expert system cannot identify a user's face at any given point, Amazon will lose a customer. Unless the technology is 100% accurate, Amazon will need to have a backup or secondary form of customer identification. According to PBS, facial recognition technology is most accurate in a controlled environment with proper lighting. John Gabrieli, a neuroscientist at MIT, explains that computer algorithms have not been able to fully capture facial recognition on the same level as the human brain. While the technology will continue to develop, computer scientists are working to program computers in a way that mirrors the human brain.
Amazon's patent includes the following sketch of moving facial recognition software: