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Amazon files patent to use selfies as passwords
An illustration from Amazon's patent application. - photo by Natalie Crofts
SEATTLE Sometime in the future, Amazon shoppers could use photos or videos of themselves at checkout to authorize purchases.

According to a patent filed by Amazon on Oct. 19 that was published Thursday, selfies could provide the next level of protection for consumers. It argued that a selfie-pay system would be more secure than traditional passwords.

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 patent application reads. 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.

The tech giant is still working out the details of its payment system, but offered several options for how it could prevent imposters from tricking cameras. One proposed idea was to use thermal imaging.

The thermal image captured of a human face will be very different than one captured for a piece of paper, as there will be a significant variance in the thermal characteristics of regions such as the eyes, nose, and mouth of a physical user, while these variations will not be present in a photograph, the patent application reads.

Another option would be to have customers perform different actions, like blinking their left eye or smiling. The technology could also monitor for normal activity, like blinking, in a 30 second window.

In at least some embodiments the action can be compared to information stored for the user previously performing that action, to determine whether the person performing the action is likely the user, the patent application reads. Other motions or actions can be used as well, such as opening and closing the user's mouth, frowning, rotating the user's head, nodding, or performing another such action that cannot be replicated with a two-dimensional image.

For all of these options, the images used during checkout would be compared to information stored on a secure cloud-based server, according to Amazon.

Amazon has not indicated when the technology could be put into place for shopping use.
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