Mastercard introduces fingerprint authentication in South Africa

Mastercard has released a biometric card that uses the holder’s fingerprint to authorize in-store payments without requiring a PIN or signature. Stores don’t need new hardware, because the card comes with an in-built fingerprint scanner and works with any EMV terminal.

“Consumers are increasingly experiencing the convenience and security of biometrics,” said Ajay Bhalla, president, enterprise risk and security, Mastercard. “Whether unlocking a smartphone or shopping online, the fingerprint is helping to deliver additional convenience and security. It’s not something that can be taken or replicated and will help our cardholders get on with their lives knowing their payments are protected.”

By implementing single-touch authentication, Mastercard aims to simplify in-store payments and offer customers a personalized shopping experience, but also detect and prevent fraud more efficiently. The technology will be tested across South Africa in collaboration with Absa Bank and Pick n Pay.

The grocery chain has 1,500 stores in South Africa and operates in other African countries, including Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Swaziland and Lesotho. Further trials are also planned for Europe and Asia Pacific, with a full roll out by the end of the year.

Criminals will still be able to use stolen cards and carry out biometric data breaches if fingerprints are leaked. In 2015, hackers breached the database of the US Office of Personnel Management and stole approximately 5.6 million fingerprints that could be used for illicit activities. Considering how easy it is to fake fingerprints, fingerprint-based payments may not be as successful as expected in preventing fraud.

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