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How businesses must approach biometric tech adoption amid public scrutiny

How businesses must approach biometric tech adoption amid public scrutiny
 

By Zach Capers, Senior Analyst and Manager of ResearchLab at GetApp

Public perception of biometric technology looks vastly different now than it did only two years ago. Biometric data collection such as facial recognition was more widely accepted following the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic as touchless alternatives became more available to consumers. However, the security and accuracy of biometric solutions is now facing serious scrutiny from consumers.

According to GetApp’s 2024 Biometric Technologies Survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers, 42 percent say they do not trust tech companies to safeguard their biometric data—a percentage that has nearly doubled from 22 percent in 2022.

Some of the culprits driving this sentiment shift are rising reports of biometric data breaches, growing incidents of inaccurate or biased results, and the rise in AI elevating the perception of biometric technology’s risks among the public.

Despite declining trust, many companies continue to deploy biometric technologies for everything from security improvements to customer experience enhancements. To better meet the demands of both skeptical consumers and increasingly assertive regulators, businesses need to gain a stronger understanding of the factors contributing to the mistrust of biometric technology.

Data security and accuracy issues erode consumer confidence

Eye-opening headlines about multi-million dollar fines and data breaches have likely damaged public confidence that companies use and store their biometric information securely. GetApp’s research bears this out, finding that the misuse of data (88 percent) and data breaches (88 percent) are the top two consumer concerns about biometric technology. Recently, genetic testing and biotechnology company 23AndMe experienced a data breach that affected 6.9 million users. And, tech giant Meta was ordered to pay $68.5 million in a class action lawsuit settlement for improperly storing biometric data.

Beyond security concerns, 63 percent of consumers also worry about the accuracy of biometric data. Instances of misidentification—especially cases disproportionately impacting people of color—have gained media attention in recent years. Take drugstore chain Rite Aid, which the Federal Trade Commission recently banned from using facial recognition after the company falsely identified “consumers, particularly women and people of color, as shoplifters.” An overwhelming 82 percent of consumers say that facial recognition should be avoided if found to be biased.

The eroding trust in biometric technology has coincided with the rise of AI among consumers, which has only fueled further public scrutiny. Gartner predicts that AI-generated deepfakes will lead 30 percent of companies to stop relying on biometric authentication by 2026.

How to adopt biometric technology with trust and transparency

Businesses considering biometric technology should take a deliberate approach that recognizes both the public and regulatory scrutiny it currently faces. This includes building trust and ensuring transparency when implementing new technology.

Stay up-to-date with evolving laws and regulations

While there is not yet a comprehensive federal law governing biometrics, there is a patchwork of state-level regulations that address the collection and storage of biometric data. Six states have enacted biometric laws, including Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), generally considered the toughest law of its kind in the U.S.

Keep in mind that regulations will continue to evolve as technology advances, and this often occurs in the aftermath of data breaches and class action lawsuits when public pressure is at its highest. A dozen other states have pending legislation, such as Colorado where the state Senate is currently reviewing a bill that would require companies to delete biometric data after a year, or upon request by its owner.

Show that the technology is valuable

Demonstrate the positive benefits of biometric technology while alleviating doubts. Many use cases for biometrics require education and proof that they are an improvement over traditional methods. If your company plans to implement a biometric payment option, for example, make sure that customers understand the enhanced convenience offered by the technology along with the security standards used to protect their data.

Scale adoption

Ease customers and employees into new biometric technology by first making adoption optional. As users become more familiar with the technology, implementation will become easier across different applications. From an ethical standpoint, being judicious in adoption also helps companies identify potential biases or inaccuracies with the technology. Taking a scalable, incremental approach also allows businesses to gather feedback from users and adjust their adoption plan accordingly.

While it’s hard to predict how consumer sentiment may shift in the future, businesses must take a proactive approach today to protect against financial, legal, and reputational risks tomorrow. A focus on trust and transparency is paramount for gaining acceptance for biometric technology.

About the author

Zach Capers is a senior security analyst and manager of ResearchLab at GetApp, covering IT security, data privacy, and emerging technology trends. A former internal investigator for a Fortune 50 company and researcher for the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), his work has been featured in top security and business publications.

DISCLAIMER: Biometric Update’s Industry Insights are submitted content. The views expressed in this post are that of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Biometric Update.

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