Facial recognition in African banks

October 10, 2017

Financial industry in Africa is embracing facial recognition technology, clearly banks using it have proved biometric data used in fingerprint and facial recognition systems is indelible. It is being used in authoritative identity registers, featured on identity documents such as passports and driver licenses for those doing banking transactions.With increasing attention being paid to the utilization of technology in the financial sector, financial players are advancing their business with new technology such as facial recognition, not only to gain more customers, but more importantly to offer more possibilities. Facial recognition, which has long been used in social media networks, has already become a technology mature enough to be utilized in the financial sector across Africa. It is a wave which all kinds of banks and financial service providers are trying to catch up with at present, as the technology does enhance their ability to reach more customers.Integrated with more technologies being applied in the financial sector, such as big data and blockchain, facial recognition will gain a greater role.African banks have built large biometric databases through registration of people as bankers, every bank has a photograph of the banker. Irrespective of banking customer consent to uses beyond those for which the picture was taken, the banks now have a biometric image of all their customers, and the ability to search the images has never been that simple.The newly added biometric authentication allows customers to transfer up to $10,000 per day to new payees by combining facial recognition with their passwords on some selected banks mobile banking app, and frees them from the physical security devices required for such transactions.One of the bank your blogger is aware of, regards it as a move to promote its mobile payment business in Africa, one of the world’s most new-tech receptive regions.Digital technology is rapidly evolving and customers are now able to bank more simply, quickly and in the most secure way possible.A banker in the bank told your blogger how she see a huge growth opportunity in the adoption of technology for retail banking, not just in Sub Saharan Africa but across the African region as a whole.Facial recognition ensures that a real person is in front of the camera instead of a picture, which makes it much more secure than fingerprint recognition.

According to the data your blogger was able to see, the error rate for facial recognition would be around one in a million, while that for fingerprints is around one in 50,000.There are more than fifty banks promoting use of that technology in Africa. With the technology already mature enough to be put into practice, many banks are now using it as an assistive method to authenticate the identities of customers and some have already equipped their automated teller machines with a facial recognition system.Facial recognition systems are widely considered to be more reliable than established password systems for verifying individuals and ensuring they are who they say they are. Soon, the shape of a customers eyes could soon be enough to give them access to their bank account. Some of the major banks are developing the use of voice and facial recognition technology to help identify customers. Most financial institutions are looking at deploying the use of biometrics for customers to help them do simple things including opening an account, be recognized at a branch or allow them to use an ATM.The authentication is a good way to help prevent fraudsters accessing customer accounts and it is expected to become commonplace in Africa within the next ten years. Another banker told your blogger he was looking at using a variety of biometrics to help better identify customers including using voice to determine the authenticity of a customer phoning up the bank’s call centre.His bank is currently piloting the use of voice recognition technology as a way of identifying customers over the phone or as a two-factor authentication when making large transactions. It is also looking into the use of additional forms of biometrics such as fingerprint and eye retina scanners, as an additional security measure at ATMs. So far it has more than 40,000 customers who have enrolled their voice prints to help them be correctly identified when contacting the bank’s call centre.They are now looking to expand the use of biometrics technology to other areas including mobile devices.As much its great to see the industry in Africa deploy the technologies, biometrics on their own are not inherently secure. When used as the only protection mechanism, they’re often very unreliable, either allowing too many unauthorized users to access a device, or by creating a frustrating user experience by locking out legitimate users. One can only hope such issues will be addressed or attended to whenever they arise.

 

Contador Harrison