back to article Square pushes pay-by-facial recognition

Web 2.0 darling Square is promising to make everyone a regular by promoting pay-by-face: just smile and ask to have your purchase put onto your bill with no authentication required. The system, which is opt in, knows which store you are in from the location of your phone, so presents the iPad-equipped shopkeeper with …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If they can do this then why can't I just stuff my pockets and leave? Surely, I'll have the receipt in my phone before I can get to my car, right?

  2. D@v3
    Black Helicopters

    I'm not sure, but I think I prefer this idea to that of pulling my phone (card etc..) out and touching to a reader. Partly because of the opt in nature of it. It seems to remove the possibility of an unsavoury character standing a little to close to me on the bus / train, and electronically robbing me with their high gain antennas.

    However, I do get the feeling that there is something deeply wrong with this, i just cant put my finger on it....

  3. Elmer Phud

    Not much use after a session or two with the Botox or after the nose job.

  4. Vortigern

    By the time you've loaded the app and the GPS has got where you are it'll be quicker just to swipe your NFC card/phone.

    Might work well in the pub though as you're there for a longer time

    1. James Micallef Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      doesn't work like that

      I saw a detailed article about it yesterday. All you need as a client is to have registered the shop as one of your vendors. The phone keeps track of your location relative to the location of these vendors, and sends out a signal to the vendor when you're close to the location. (not sure of the tech details here but ideally it does this locally on your phone in real time without keeping track of or broadcasting where you are/were). So you don't need to pull out your phone, just walk to the counter and say your name. The shopkeeper compares your name / face with the name / photo combination he sees on his screen (that shows all customers within range).

      I would guess that it's more secure than credit card signature. Almost no-one ever bothers to compare the signature on my card to the one I sign on the slip. The comparison to the photo on credit card not working isn't valid, since counter staff HAVE to properly check the face to bill to the right person, while with credit card they don't care about the face, only the credit card number. And a vendor can't bill you unless you're BOTH a registered user AND within range, so minimises the risk of walk-by swiping.

      Of course there will be security issues, just like everything else, nothing's perfect. For example impersonate someone with a vague resemblance and steal their phone, or hack your phone to send out a signal pretending to be my phone. And one technical worry could be battery power if it's continually using GPS to pinpoint the phone location. Overall looks like a good thinking-out-of-the-box solution

  5. Graham Bartlett

    Just me?

    Anyone else read "pay-by-facial" as something completely different?

    1. Laurent_Z

      aka Bukakke Card ?

      OK, whats the procedure already ? ah, yes. Coat, Door, Meet me at the pub ! 8)

    2. Ru

      It is a surprising notion

      Financial and Governmental agencies generally approach the issue from the other end, after all.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "the service enables shopkeepers to greet you by name"

    Why, isn't that the greatest innovation evar. Call me old fashioned, but I severely dislike being addressed by name by people I don't know. If I *know* the people don't know me either, that's just that much worse. I'm not in the military, I'm not wearing my name on my jacket, they don't *need* to know, so they *shouldn't* know.

    Feh, I even dislike it whem websites that I've signed up to deign to address me by my first name. It might be de rigeur in silly valley, but to me it indicates a lack of respect. Not that this isn't the default in the silly valley-dominated intarwebz, of course. You're the product, and you damn well can suck up and like it. Anyway.

    There's another slippery angle here, and that's that altough you may have opted in, I have not, and what are they doing with the images of me and others that haven't opted in? In the end it all comes down to another company promising lots of stuff like "of course we care for your privacy!", just like facebook keeps on insisting it does. Syeah right they do.

    This, along with NFC and most other non-cash payment systems (hello visa, mastercard), are increasingly just excuses to gather more information than they're entitled to. Sure it's valuable info to them, but that doesn't mean I'm willing to hand it to them. Even if it only saves me that much junk mail and spam, I'll keep my name and address to myself, and they can keep their "valuable offers".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      RE: Opt in

      "There's another slippery angle here, and that's that altough you may have opted in, I have not, and what are they doing with the images of me and others that haven't opted in?"

      I would have thought that that would be part of the opt in process. You opt in to this service for a location, and they get your details (images etc..), enabling future transactions. You don't opt in, they don't know who you are....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "You don't opt in, they don't know who you are..."

        ... yet they do get the images. Oh, alright, they don't also get your name. But maybe they do get what you just bought. And if they can make an unique recognition out of you, they can remember, remember what you purchased, build up a profile anyway. Like, oh, facebook is doing with their hidden profiles. And all you know is that they promise not to do anything with it. But is that so? Corporate promises not to make money usually aren't worth much. Which is pretty much the problem.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hello Mr Smith!

    'Same order as last time? Another packet of very small condoms?' (said in a very loud voice).

    I'd like to see this working in the St Paul's Starbucks - all their customers look like that geezer from V for Vendetta

  8. yoinkster
    Thumb Up

    Ah yes, credit card signatures, the well known secure method of validating identity ... !

    I'm sure you've all read this but just in case someone hasn't, this signature experiment is immense:

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Who wants to be pestered to sign up to another account!

    I like cash.

  10. James 100

    Between this and RFID, you could just walk in to the shop, pick up your shopping and walk out again ... making shopping in 2020 look an awful lot like shoplifting in 2010! You'd need safeguards, of course - double-checking the list, no doubt choosing which account to charge, that sort of thing, but it could really streamline shopping if it actually works!

    I've always loved the idea of just filling up my trolley in the supermarket, wheeling it through a scanner arch and leaving, without any checkout in the way. It could work quite nicely for transport, too: instead of tickets or Oyster cards, walk through an arch at each end and be identified and charged automatically.

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