opr logoThe online payments industry is growing at a rapid rate, but you must have been living under a rock to be unaware of the numerous high-profile data leakages that have occurred in the last few years. Whether its Ashley Madison users or the NSA, secrets are being spilled and companies are desperately trying to figure out how to keep private information just that.

Aside from asking the universe’s to lend its mathematical proclivities biometrics are being considered as a way of locking out hackers and thieves. Biometrics for those not in the know are things about your body that personally identify you. Things like your DNA, have you walk, your fingerprints, your face, your handwriting.

Biometric technologies are rapidly proliferating, if you own one of the latest iPhones you’ll be familiar with unlocking your phone using your fingerprint. Android phones have a feature called Face Unlock which uses facial recognition software and your front-facing camera (selfie hole) to allow access.

As old security methods become obsolete new ways of verification enter with dual- or multi-factor models now being the standard. MasterCard are currently trialling their new biometrics app MasterCard Identity Check which will receive a widespread launch in 2016. The app combines facial or fingerprint recognition to verify payments. Fingerprints remain on your own devices while facial scans are linked to MasterCard’s servers to your data is in the cloud.

And that might be a problem. Consolidating information in the cloud means that you can rely on a behemoth like MasterCard to protect that information, but as we’ve seen behemoths aren’t infallible. Breaking in successfully is getting access to the mega-load. Our world is not inclined towards decentralised and distributed anything at the moment.

“The issue of protecting individual data will only grow in importance. In order to reap the convenience benefits users must prepare themselves for more disciplined and multiple information security practices in this brave new world.” – Mustapha Zaouini, PayU’s MEA CEO

South Africa’s Standard Bank has the fingerprint details of all 6.2 million customers and has its database aggregated with the Department of Home Affairs’ meaning customer identity can easily be verified. Convenient yes, good operational security, I’d say no.