China: Alibaba’s finance arm eyes new security tech with EyeVerify acquisition
BIOMETRIC authentication technology startup EyeVerify has become the first U.S. investment by Alibaba’s payment affiliate, Ant Financial, as it ramps up efforts to prioritize security for its customers.
According to a report by Bloomberg, the Missouri-based startup, which scans pictures of the human eyeball as a “password” for mobile services, will be owned wholly by Ant Financial. While Bloomberg cites an anonymous source as saying Ant Financial will pay about US$70 million for EyeVerify, Fortune claims their own source says the figure is closer to US$100 million in an all-cash transaction.
EyeVerify works by using the front-facing camera in a mobile device to “capture images of visible blood vessels and other micro features of the eye” to create an Eyeprint ID, which is stored by banks, payment companies, or other applications that use the technology. It is then verified and encrypted, ready to be used as authentication when a transaction occurs.
The news comes as more major banks begin opting for biometric scans to safeguard their customers’ accounts and tighten security. Some of the U.S.’s largest banks, including Bank or America, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo use fingerprint scans to verify their customers.
Jason Lu, vice president of fraud risk management at Ant Financial, said in a statement: “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. 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 integrated the Eyeprint ID into their payment authentication platform earlier this year.
The startup said that they also aim to provide financial institutions globally with this technology to “meet the needs of increasingly mobile customers”.
Toby Rush, founder and CEO of EyeVerify, said: “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.
“Our payment-grade biometric platform is already trusted by over three dozen banks and technology leaders, and we look forward to helping even more people across the financial spectrum access digital services with security and convenience.”