Amazon wants you to use selfies instead of passwords to verify your identity when making purchases online in the future, if a recent patent filing is any indication.

The idea of "shopping by selfie" may seem ludicrous now, but just a few years ago, so did the idea of purchasing nearly anything in the global marketplace anywhere via the phone in your pocket.

Shopping by Selfie

Amazon has filed a patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office describing a new way of checking out with purchases, allowing customers to buy products without needing to enter a PIN number or password.

According to the filing, once ready to check out with a shopping cart full of purchases, shoppers will simply use the built-in camera on a phone, tablet or laptop to frame their faces, and the Amazon selfie-password system will do the rest.


Amazon will accomplish this feat by using facial recognition software, not unlike the systems used by Samsung's smartphone security software since the Galaxy S4. It's also another example of biometrics-as-security, an increasingly popular field of research as users have been burdened with countless passwords for nearly anything private or important done online.

But according to Amazon's patent application, the company has added in an additional security measure so that accounts can't be hacked by a resourceful thief with access to pictures of a target.

A Wink or a Nod to a Smartphone

In essence, customers will have to prove they're live humans to the selfie password system, but in the easiest way possible.

"A transaction is authorized using an authentication process that prompts the user to perform an action in view of a camera or sensor," the patent's abstract reads. "The process identifies the user and verifies that the user requesting the transaction is a living human being."

That action can be a simple blink of the eyes, a wink or a quick flash of a smile.

As the patent puts it, winking, smiling or blinking are actions "that cannot be replicated with a two-dimensional image." Of course, in the world of GIFs, there could still be a few theoretical security holes in this system if hackers were resourceful enough.

A (Fun) Step Toward Password-Free Living

Amazon's system, if it is ever implemented, will be a big step toward a world where passwords are viewed as archaic tools of early technology.

The Amazon selife system could be a first major stab at biometrics, measurements of users' particular, unique biological aspects instead of a code or phrase that must be remembered. Thankfully, this may help shoppers free up their memory for less rote information.

For Amazon, the technology represents an obvious cost-saving measure, since forgotten passwords can easily lead to customer frustration, which in turn may lead them to abandon shopping carts entirely.

As an added bonus, the selfie authentication system actually sounds more engaging and fun to use than other biometric systems.