Report shows consumer comfort with biometrics increasing but uneven

Categories Biometrics News  |  Trade Notes

A solid majority of U.S. consumers are very comfortable with fingerprint biometrics, but other modalities are only as comfortable for between 32 and 40 percent, according to a two-part report on biometric authentication by the Center for Identity at The University of Texas at Austin.

The report, drawn in part from a survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers, is divided into “Current Biometric Applications and Trends” (PDF), and “Consumer Attitudes About Biometric Authentication” (PDF). It shows that 43 percent of consumers are more comfortable using biometrics than two years ago, and 49 percent have the same comfort level.

Facial recognition is the least trusted modality, with 10 percent saying they are “not at all comfortable” with the technology, though roughly 69 percent reported they are very or somewhat comfortable with its use. In addition to the 58 percent who said they are very comfortable with fingerprinting, 28 percent reported they are somewhat comfortable with it. Fingerprints are also the most common biometric, by proportion of applications, at 40 percent. Face recognition and multimodal applications make up 15 percent each, followed by iris recognition (13 percent), palm and vein recognition (9 percent), and voice recognition and heartbeat reading, at 4 percent each.

Consumers are concerned about misuse of their personal information, with 42 percent of respondents saying they are very concerned, and another 44 percent saying they are somewhat concerned.

“This research offers a long-awaited look at the trends for biometric applications and consumer adoption. The full potential and wide-spread adoption has not been reached, which motivates us to continue to explore how the future of biometrics unfolds,” said Suzanne Barber, director of the Center for Identity and one of the report authors, according to UT News.

Among other interesting findings included in the report, healthcare makes up only 4 percent of the “user domains” in which identities are authenticated with biometrics, compared to over 20 percent each for government, technology, and financial domains. On-site applications make up the majority of platforms (55 percent), followed by mobile devices (30 percent). Consumers also report that they are less comfortable sharing children’s biometric data with private entities than their own.

A recent survey of U.S. consumers by TSheets found a significant lack of understanding about what biometrics are. That survey showed only 28 percent of consumers are comfortable using biometrics to unlock their phones, but the Center for Identity survey shows 48 percent are doing just that. Other reports, such as one published in late 2017 by Visa, show popular support for biometrics among U.S. consumers.

Robert Capps, VP and authentication strategist for NuData Security added, “Biometrics adoption is growing among end users who see it as a convenient a reliable way to authenticate themselves. The easier it is for customers to use, the smoother adoption it will have. While physical biometrics are good verification tools, they require an extra step from the user – take a selfie or put their thumb on a surface, for example – and are not bulletproof. To avoid the additional step that physical biometrics require, a passive biometrics layer can be implemented to verify users without added friction. This passive biometrics layer can evaluate a subtle inherent user behavior such as how they hold the device or how they type and, if the user is high risk, then a physical biometrics scan can be requested.This multi-layered approach that includes passive and physical biometrics provides customers with enhanced account security without adding unnecessary friction.”

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