Alipay envisions safer mobile transactions with eye-based biometrics

The China-based company behind Alipay envisions making financial transactions safer and more trustworthy using your vision or, more precisely, your eyes.

Ant Financial Services Group, which has operated the Alipay online payment platform since 2004, recently announced it is acquiring EyeVerify, a four-year-old biometric security firm located in Kansas City, Missouri. EyeVerify’s flagship technology is something called Eyeprint ID, which turns a digital image of a person’s eye into a personalized means of mobile authentication.

An Eyeprint, the company says, generates an encrypted identifier based on the unique blood vessels and other micro-features visible in a selfie of each individual’s eye. With every transaction, the software captures a live image of the user’s eye and then processes it in the same way to compare it with the original encrypted Eyeprint. When the images match, the user’s identity is authenticated.

The entire process is handled on the local device, which helps prevent the loss, theft or interception of an individual’s biometric data, according to EyeVerify.

“The acquisition of EyeVerify is a critical part of our effort to make bold, yet thoughtful moves to continually enhance user trust, safety, and experience,” Jason Lu, vice president of fraud risk management at Ant Financial, said in a Sept. 13 announcement about the acquisition. “It is an important extension of our efforts to accelerate the global adoption of secure mobile payments and allows us to improve our overall risk management.”

Ant Financial had already been using EyeVerify’s technology in its payment platform, but said the acquisition will allow it to be “integrated into even more Ant Financial products and secure hundreds of millions of consumers’ online data and transactions.”

“Ant Financial’s vision to turn trust into wealth for small and micro enterprises as well as consumers worldwide resonates deeply with our own core mission,” noted EyeVerify founder and CEO Toby Rush, adding that his company’s leaders “look forward to helping even more people across the financial spectrum access digital services with security and convenience.”

EyeVerify’s technology is being used by more than three dozen other banks and technology companies, including Wells Fargo and RSA.

“We want to do more,” Rush said in a post on his company’s blog. “In addition to serving hundreds of millions of people through Alipay’s authentication platform, EyeVerify will continue to grow its global customer base. We aim to provide financial institutions worldwide with the identity and authentication technology they need to expand their services and meet the needs of increasingly mobile customers.”

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