Multiple surveys find acceptance of biometrics by U.S., U.K. consumers mixed

TSheets recently surveyed 500 U.S. adults to determine what they know about biometrics. Turned out, only one in 10 recognized that fingerprint, DNA tests, handprint geometry, facial photography or retina and iris scans all contain biometric data.

The report found that nearly 50 percent of respondents were not comfortable with using biometrics in nearly any situation. The report also found that only 28 percent were comfortable with using biometrics to unlock their phone, and 40 percent were absolutely unable to identify what biometric data is.

“A lot of people are just not comfortable with biometrics because they do not understand what biometrics are,” said Patrick Adcock, a TSheets analyst, in an interview with BiometricUpdate.com. “Consumer education is what is missing since there is a lack of understanding about the technology itself and its potential.

While the TSheets research primarily focused on consumer applications, other recently conducted research found that U.S. adults hold a more favorable view of the use of biometrics for security purposes.

FaceFirst conducted a survey of over 1,000 Americans last month and found that the majority (64%) of people think face recognition should be used to help recognize terrorists and prevent crime. Their survey also revealed that 73 percent would feel less safe if cameras were removed in airports. Much of the anxiety around the use of biometrics and security emerge from the overwhelming belief by U.S. residents (89%) that a terrorist or mass shooter incident could occur in the next year at a concert, sporting event or airport.

Fear of a violent attack motivates U.S. adults to support the use of biometric technologies for security applications, but fear of surveillance by government and the corporate sector, along with a general lack of understanding about the technology concurrently motivates them to reject the biometric technology for most other applications.

TSheets’ recent research astoundingly found that even Apple’s iPhone, the device that popularized and mainstreamed use of biometrics, is treated with great amounts of apprehension by consumers. TSheets found that only 25.7% of U.S. adults felt comfortable with using fingerprint recognition on iPhone.

“Our survey found that there is a disconnect in understanding the benefits of the technology and also a basic lack of understanding about the technology itself,” said Adcock. Experts like Adcock note that consumer understanding of biometrics will improve when industry explains how the technology works, rather than have consumers treat the technology like a “magical black box”.

TSheet’s findings on consumer confidence in biometric technology are in line with previous market research conducted on consumer adoption and confidence. In a study conducted in March 2016, the Consumer Technology Association noted that industry needs to do more to educate consumers on the benefits of biometrics and its uses. One-third of consumers at the time, according to the CTA, were “neutral” on using these technologies due to lack of understanding about the user experience, data security and the overall value proposition.

The CTA found that a quarter of U.S. adults (28%) were less than comfortable, and about one-half of U.S. adults (42%) had “neutral sentiments” concerning biometric technologies used for commercial purposes, including for consumer electronic customization.

The CTA study found that less than half of U.S. adults had adopted or used some form of biometric technology in 2016. The report claims however that awareness of biometric technology is higher, especially within the “senior citizen” demographic. The study notes that fingerprint (29%) and voice recognition (13%) were the most widely adopted and used biometric technologies, due to wide usage of smartphones that incorporate such features. The CTA report also noted that a large percentage of adults in the U.S. are comfortable with biometric technologies being used at places that require high security, such as airports, or in public places that require higher levels of protection, including schools.

U.S. adults also view entities that are required to handle personal data securely, including health care organizations and financial institutions, more favorably with managing biometric information. Their research also found that more than half (63%) of U.S. adults were open to the use of biometric technologies for altruistic purposes such as medical research (58%) or in assistive devices for individuals with disabilities (67%).

A study by Pew in 2016 found that that over half (54%) of respondents thought that the use of facial recognition cameras were acceptable in the workplace to catch thieves of employees’ personal belongings. By a two-to-one margin (54% to 24%) a majority of Americans found the installation of surveillance cameras and corresponding retention of data to be acceptable, while one-fifth (21%) of adults sid their consideration of this tradeoff would depend on the circumstances.

This report supports the trend that if a personal protection benefit exists, especially concerning safety or the protection of financial information, consumers are inclined to accept biometric technology. Studies, including a recent one conducted by payment processor Visa at the end of last year, found that 86 percent of U.S. consumers are interested in using biometrics for identity verification or to make payments. Visa’s study also found that 70 percent said biometrics were easier than passwords or PINs, and 61 percent said they considered them faster, but only 46 percent said biometrics were more secure.

A previous study conducted by Mastercard found that 88 percent of respondents said that biometric authentication was overwhelmingly easy to use on its own while 86 percent of respondents said they found it even easier to use than password-based authentication. Additionally, more than 90 percent of participants said that biometric payment authentication is a method they could see themselves using on a daily basis for financial transactions.

Another UK report conducted by Intelligence Environments also found that eight in 10 (79%) UK consumers are ready to stop using passwords in favor of biometric security measures like fingerprint scanners. That report notes that 53 percent of UK banking customers want their banks to integrate fingerprint scanners into their digital banking services.

While consumers have mixed views on the acceptance of biometrics, corporate actors are growing more committed to the deployment of such systems. A recent report conducted by East & Partners Asia found that nearly one-third of all large enterprises across Asia believe biometrics are a secure technology and expect to use it in the near future.

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