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NatWest customers can now open an account with a selfie

One of the UK’s biggest banks is now enabling customers to open an account by using a selfie.

The bank says that it will use cutting edge AI facial recognition to match people with their correct documents. The customer will also need to provide an ID, such as a passport, which the selfie is matched against.

To prevent fraud, the documents are authenticated.

To ensure that the technology matches the right person, real-time facial biometrics are used to match the details needed to open an account.

Facial recognition is already used for things like checking passports when crossing borders or to unlock certain smartphones.

Why is the bank doing this?

The reason for the move to AI is to try and speed up the process behind opening an account. The current process can take a couple of days and involves people having to physically go into the bank.

NatWest have spoken about how the move will make the process faster, easier and safer.

Frans Woelders, chief digital officer at NatWest, says: “We know customers want to be able to open accounts at a time and a place that suits them and not have to worry about precious ID documents going missing in the post, or taking time out of their day to go to a branch. That’s why we’re making it easier, safer and faster to open and access accounts, allowing customers to get on with the things that matter.”

Smaller banks and using this software

Other banks claim to have been using AI tech for a while to open bank accounts. For example, back in January 2018, London’s Metro Bank said they will use selfie technology to open a bank account. Whilst digital banks Starling, Monese and Monzo, ask customers to make a short video to open an account. They also ask for a proof of ID to confirm who they are.

Security and privacy

This type of tech means that people no longer have to remember things like passwords when passing security checks, but this does not necessarily mean that security is 100% fool proof.

Discussing taking humans out of security for companies like banks, Ilia Kolochenko, CEO and founder of web security company, ImmuniWeb says: “Image recognition is probably pretty far from the “state of the art AI” claimed by the bank. The new approach, however, will undoubtedly be financially beneficial for the bank and its customers.

“Talking about security, it will unlikely bring any major improvement but will just change the rules of the game. Differently from a multi-skilled human, the AI will likely make a match between the selfie and the ID’s photo. After some preparation, reverse-engineering and tests, the attackers will likely create a smart bypass to get a 99% approval with forged or fake photos.”

He continued: “Worse, they will do this remotely and police will not be able to help. The race between AI developers, supported by antifraud experts, and cybercriminals continues.”

Cyber security specialist, Rajinder Tumber, also suggests that we customers will still need to be careful when it comes to using facial recognition technology.

He airs caution, by saying: “Whilst the Natwest identity platform solution uses identity verification technology for security, is this enough to convince us we’re not opening ourselves to risk?

“Will NatWest confirm to us that our selfies will not be sold?  Software which analyses facial expressions could potentially be used by organisations to prey on vulnerable customers, e.g. focusing on distressed looking individuals, and tailoring their products and services to them.”

How will this technology impact on the future?

It’s also thought that Biometric facial recognition is going to have a huge impact on many aspects of life. From social media, to online purchases, people’s faces will be used alongside authentic ID to ensure that we really are who we say we are when it comes to interaction on the web. Facebook already uses a software called DeepFace which is used to tag us in photographs.

Experts feel that learning about human emotions will become more advanced through the use of facial recognition algorithms. This will assist with facial tracking and matching.

People hope that facial recognition will boost the economy drastically. This would potentially be through security (like passports), health (by being able to track things like medication) and retail (making transactions quicker).

Other benefits of this software include helping out the legal system, uncovering more hackers and generally helping to further the development of new technology.

The NatWest pilot has seen over 60,000 customers using the Ai technology to open a bank account so far. With some of these people completing the whole process in around 4 minutes.

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