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App code hints that Android Pay could use facial recognition for loyalty programs

App code hints that Android Pay could use facial recognition for loyalty programs


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Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

Google could be looking to implement facial recognition into Android Pay, according to 9to5Google, which took a close look at the code of an new version of the app.

9to5Google conducted an “APK teardown” of Version 1.22 of Android Pay, and it found a feature called Visual ID, described as “a secure way to confirm your identity at participating stores, making it easier to do things like earn loyalty points and redeem rewards.” The site notes that these sorts of teardowns don’t necessarily mean that Google will actually deploy this feature.

AndroidPolice conducted its own examination of the code, and noted that when a person’s identity is confirmed by Visual ID, the loyalty perks are automatically applied to the purchase. The system appears to use Bluetooth to detect a customer’s location, and presumably would require a camera in the store to take a picture of them. The system won’t actually save the image: it’ll compare it to an existing one provided by the customer, and then delete it.

This isn’t the first time that Google has experimented with new ways for customers to pay for purchases. Two years ago, it announced Hands Free, an experimental program that allowed customers to pay by saying “I’ll pay with Google.” That program didn’t last long: Google shut down it down last year, but noted at the time that it planned to “bring the best of the Hands Free technology to even more people and stores.”

We’ve reached out Google to learn more, and we’ll update if we hear back.