World Emoji Day spurs discussion about mobile payments security

August 4 2016

74 percent of people in the U.S. regularly use stickers, emoticons or emojis while talking online

July 17 isn’t just the date displayed by your smartphone’s calendar emoji. It signifies World Emoji Day, an annual celebration of the popular library of icons that continues to change the way the world communicates online. Mobile users around the globe celebrated World Emoji Day’s third anniversary this year by sharing the icons via text message, instant messenger, social media and more.

 

According to Swyft Media, 74 percent of people in the U.S. regularly use stickers, emoticons or emojis while talking online. In a recent article for PayBefore.com, Worldpay eComm’s US General Manager Casey Bullock dug deeper into this growing communication trend to see if the little smiley faces could be used to provide safer password protection for online payments.

 

Bullock found two main benefits to using emojis for online authentication. For starters, the visual aspect of emojis makes the characters easier to remember. Instead of memorizing a stream of seemingly random letters and characters, people could use icons that trigger both verbal and visual cues. What’s more, emoji password requirements could be shorter than many of the current standards. In fact, there are just 7,290 unique combinations of four non-repeating numbers, compared with more than 3.5 million non-repeating unique combinations of the hundreds of existing emojis -- and the number of emojis continues to grow every year.

    

Although emojis pose many potential benefits for the future of online payments authentication, there are still limitations. For one, the library of icons is readily available to use on many smartphones and tablets but not consistently accessible on desktops. Because of this, organizations that want to implement emoji passwords would either need to remove access points that don’t allow emojis or prompt users to create two passwords, one for mobile and one for desktop, compromising the emoji password benefits. Difficulty differentiating between similar looking emojis is another potential problem (e.g. a smiley face with eyes open vs. a smiley face with eyes closed). This brings up the importance of introducing this new authentication process to audiences familiar with the extensive range of icons.

 

“In any case, one thing remains clear,” Bullock commented. “The mobile banking and e-commerce industries could stand to gain a big boost from online authentication via emojis. As many as four out of five end users would use their mobile device for more transactions if overall security improved, according to a survey from Lunabee. Given the millions of unique password combinations made available by emojis, an authentication process that implements character sets could offer users the safety and security they crave.”

 

To learn more about how mobile payments can use emoji passwords, read the full article here.

 

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