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European Central Bank explores payment preferences, including biometrics

European Central Bank explores payment preferences, including biometrics

The European Central Bank (ECB) has published the findings of the report it commissioned on citizens’ payment habits and their attitudes towards digital payments, and found significant support for those powered by biometrics.

Conducted from October to December 2021, the research aims to help the ECB gain a deeper understanding of user preferences, and forms part of the Bank’s digital euro project.

The report’s results indicate a preference of focus groups and online communities across all euro-area countries to utilize payment methods offering pan-European reach as well as universal acceptance in both physical shops and online.

Moreover, a substantial proportion of those surveyed said they preferred solutions that are convenient, fast, and easy to use.

In terms of security, many respondents said they are happy to rely on biometric methods of payment verification, including those utilizing fingerprint, face, and iris scanning technology, rather than legacy authentication methods such as PINs and passwords.

“Fingerprint and iris scanning were particularly appealing to the tech-savvy, with some participants raising the issue of Face ID not working in the Covid-19 era of mask-wearing,” the report reads.

Additionally, participants aged 25 to 54 also mentioned they would like to use biometrics in conjunction with a code, reflecting awareness that two-factor authentication (2FA) is more secure.

“The tech-savvy, in particular, favored biometric authentication for smaller amounts but would like a one-time password approach for larger purchases and for online purchases.”

Ideally, the report explains, the wallet would learn these authorization rules when it is being used, so it could prompt for additional verification in the right circumstances.

However, most of the participants disliked the idea of multi-channel authentication as “it was deemed a burdensome procedure for users to switch from the app to a text and so on.”

In this regard, the most popular format choice for a potential digital wallet by ECB was a smartphone or smartwatch, but some respondents mentioned everyday items such as jewelry or glasses, and even implanting a chip in their body.

“The tech-savvy, in particular, were attracted to options that would allow them to no longer carry a wallet or cards at all.”

The report’s findings will feed into the ongoing digital euro investigation phase, which is expected to conclude in October 2023.

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