MasterCard could soon introduce facial scanning technologies and fingerprint identification for processing digital payments as it investigates new ways to tackle online shopping fraud.

The financial services giant will launch a small pilot programme involving 500 participants over the next couple of months to help build the infrastructure needed to verify purchase requests without password authentication. MasterCard will be joining forces with tech leaders Apple, BlackBerry, Google, Samsung and Microsoft as well as two major banks to help make the feature a reality.

Currently the international group uses a SecureCode solution which requires a password from its customers at checkout. The system was used across 3 billion transactions last year, the company said. It is now exploring biometric alternatives to protect against unauthorised payment card transactions.

Customers trialling the new technologies are required to download the MasterCard app onto their smart device. At checkout two authorisation steps will be taken; fingerprint recognition and facial identification using the device’s camera. The system will check for blinking to avoid criminals simply holding a photograph up to the lens.

“The new generation, which is into selfies […] I think they’ll find it cool. They’ll embrace it,” said MasterCard enterprise safety and security president Ajay Bhalla.

According to Mastercard, it will not keep images of fingerprints or faces, but it will be able to reconstruct both from stored data.

“They’re storing an algorithm, not a picture of you. And I’m sure they’re doing the appropriate stuff to guard it,” assured Phillip Dunkelpberger of biometrics firm Nok Nok Labs.

MasterCard has recently announced that it will be boosting its cybersecurity strategy with a $20mn (£13mn) investment. It has teamed up with First Tech Federal Credit Union to run its biometric pilot scheme researching areas such as facial and voice recognition, heartbeat rhythm monitoring, and fingerprint authentication for approving purchases online.