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Mastercard Unveils Biometric Checkout System That Lets You Pay With a Smile

The credit card company says it's working with partners to ensure consumer security and privacy.

Illustration of person's face being scanned.
Mastercard; screenshot by CNET

Mastercard wants to let you pay for things in stores with a smile or a wave, using its new Biometric Checkout Program, the credit card company said Tuesday. 

"The way we pay needs to keep pace with the way we live, work and do business, offering choice to consumers with the highest levels of security," Mastercard's president of Cyber & Intelligence, Ajay Bhalla, said in a release

The company said it's established a set of compliance standards for banks, merchants and technology providers that ensures that the private data of consumers using the service is properly secured.

Privacy advocates have long been wary of companies processing consumers' biometric data, especially when facial recognition is involved. The primary concern is that collecting biometric data like facial structure or fingerprints puts people's privacy at risk because that data is unique, unalterable and identifiable. 

Several states, including Illinois, have enacted laws regulating the use of biometrics. Lawmakers have also proposed federal legislation banning the use of facial recognition. And lawsuits have been brought against companies for violating biometric privacy laws. Earlier this year, the IRS began allowing taxpayers to opt out of facial recognition, after backlash over its use of ID.me to verify taxpayers' identities.  

Mastercard is testing its experimental biometric payment process starting this week at five supermarkets in São Paulo, Brazil. Mastercard said future tests are being planned for Asia and the Middle East. 

Mastercard said that though the company is focusing on testing the program in early-adopter markets, the US is part of its near-term plan and encouraging conversations with potential partners have taken place.