Alipay believes biometrics will kill passwords

Alipay believes biometrics will kill passwords

14 JUL 2015

LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS SHANGHAI 2015: Jason Lu, vice president with Alipay, predicted traditional passwords will be succeeded by biometric verification for mobile payments, as the Chinese giant turns financial services into a mass market product.

The Alipay executive used his presentation at the Digital Commerce Summit on Tuesday morning to discuss the possibilities for biometric authentication via mobile devices, particularly looking at facial and fingerprint recognition.

He contrasted the two approaches: there was nothing secretive about user’s faces, compared with fingerprints. “Nobody puts their fingerprints on social media, right?” In fact, in some countries only national governments have the right to collect fingerprints, which rules out the private sector using the same approach. In China, the government encrypts second-generation ID cards using fingerprints.

However, there are also arguments against using facial recognition, not least that users do age and their faces change, which could present a challenge for authentication. “Each approach has an advantage or disadvantage,” he said.

Another critique of using facial recognition is that hackers could potentially use a user’s photo to fake their identity, although the Alipay exec pointed out a workaround to that weakness: a system that requires the user to move, for instance by issuing random orders such as asking them to shake their heads.

In the coming three years, entering a password will be “dead”, he declared. “No one will have to remember words and numbers. Instead they will use fingerprint or face,” he said.

In addition, the Alipay exec laid out the lofty ambitions for Ant Financial Services, Alipay’s parent. Both Alipay and Ant Financial Services are affiliate companies of e-commerce giant Alibaba. The company’s mission is to develop mobile internet-based services for small/ micro enterprises and ordinary citizens. Both groups have been ignored by traditional financial institutions.

“By combining big data and internet, we can attract a lot of ordinary people who do not have a whole lot of money,” he said.

Among the characteristics needed in the Alipay system are innovation, which means pushing the financial services market to new places, as well as a 24/7 mentality around analysing risk and policy deployment. While simultaneously wanting to be secure, the Ailpay system has to handle “hundreds of millions” of transactions.


Richard Handford

Richard is the editor of Mobile World Live’s money channel and a contributor to the daily news service. He is an experienced technology and business journalist who previously worked as a freelancer for many publications over the last decade including...

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