As reported in The Guardian recently, Mastercard is rolling out a controversial programme that will allow shoppers to pay at the till with a mere smile or wave of the hand, as it tries to secure a slice of the $18bn (£14.4bn) biometrics market.

“No more fumbling for your phone or hunting for your wallet when you have your hands full – the next generation of in-person payments will only need a quick smile or wave of your hand. The trusted technology that uses your face or fingerprint to unlock your phone can now be used to help consumers speed through the checkout. With Mastercard’s new Biometric Checkout Program, all you will need is yourself. 

Smile for the cash register 

Once enrolled, there is no need to slow down the checkout queue searching through their pockets or bag. Consumers can simply check the bill and smile into a camera or wave their hand over a reader to pay. The new technology ensures a fast and secure checkout experience, whilst also empowering consumers to choose how they want to pay.”

Ok – that’s enough from the MasterCard press release. However, after reading I immediately realized there’s actually no need for MasterCard’s ‘smile to pay’ system.

Think back to the last time you were at the convenience or grocery store or fashion retailer checkout. How long did it take the associate to scan your items? Thirty seconds? One minute? Perhaps even five minutes? I’m sure that during any of those durations you had the time to reach into your pocket, purse, or wallet to retrieve your MasterCard and tap the reader. The transaction was simple, reliable, and fast. 

What’s the catch?

So why indeed does MasterCard want to enrol you into their “new Biometric Checkout Program”? Because both MasterCard and VISA have realized they missed the boat. Yes, they control the tracking of global credit card transactions, however, the most valuable companies on earth today: Apple, Alphabet, Meta and Microsoft control us. They own all our personal data that we gave them in exchange for the use of free online services. 

MasterCard wants in. In fact, they want our most personal information – Biometrics.

Biometrics are Humanmetrics

From Wikipedia: Biometrics are body measurements and calculations related to human characteristics. Biometric authentication (or realistic authentication) is used in computer science as a form of identification and access control. It is also used to identify individuals in groups that are under surveillance. Biometric identifiers are the distinctive, measurable characteristics used to label and describe individuals. Biometric identifiers are often categorized as physiological characteristics, which are related to the shape of the body. 

Think about how rich and powerful Big Tech has become by simply tracking our online lives. Imagine what MasterCard could do with a video camera at every POS checkout terminal. 

Consider the damage done by the numerous customer and government data breaches every month. Then try to imagine the potential impact of hackers stealing our biometric data and selling it to the highest bidder. The havoc that could ensue boggles the mind.