Biometrics Catching on, but Consumers Still Wary: Survey

Most consumers think biometric authentication is easier than using passwords, but many worry about how safe their fingerprints, faces, voices and even eye patterns really are in today’s digital world, according to new data from AYTM Market Research and Visa.

The survey of 1,000 consumers who use at least one credit card, debit card and/or mobile pay found that 65% of consumers know what biometrics are, and the same number have tried or regularly use fingerprint recognition. However, only 8% said there are no drawbacks to using biometric authentication for payments.

“For financial institutions, the time has never been better to integrate biometric technology into banking apps and payments experiences for customers,” Visa Senior Vice President of Risk and Authentication Products Mark Nelsen said.

“Advances in mobile device features are increasing the accuracy and speed of biometrics, such that they can be used for financial transactions. At the same time, consumers are widely familiar and comfortable with using biometrics for more than just unlocking their phones,” he added.

Consumers do appear to be juggling lots of passwords, according to the data. Almost two-thirds (61%) said they use multiple passwords, and 40% use multiple PINs. Only a third had unique passwords and PINs for every account, the survey said.

Passwords may be a hassle for many customers, but the survey results also suggest that today’s password-protected world is affecting merchants as well: over half the respondents said they’ve abandoned an online purchase because they couldn’t remember a password. According to the survey, the most popular benefit of biometrics among consumers is not having to remember all those passwords and PINs.

“Interest in using biometrics to make payments is almost on par with interest in using biometrics to verify identity. Interest in making payments is highest by far for fingerprint recognition, but almost four out of 10 (39%) are interested in eye scanning and facial recognition (36%) too,” the study said.

Of course, consumers aren’t without concern regarding biometrics. Half (49%) worry their biological identifiers could be compromised in a data breach, and as many are worried that biometric authentication won’t work well or will take multiple tries. Two in five consumers (40%) said they’re concerned about the cost of owning a device that uses biometric authentication, and 35% worry about privacy. One in five said they’re uncomfortable using biometric authentication in public. 

Consumers are most likely to trust their financial institutions and credit/debit card networks to store their biometric data, but few trust other entities with that information, according to the survey. Only about a quarter of consumers said they trust their mobile phone or wireless service providers with their biometric data, for example. Department stores and local, independent stores and restaurants scored even lower — just 12% and 9% of consumers, respectively, said they trusted those businesses with their biometric data. Almost a quarter of consumers said they don’t trust any institution to store their biometric information.

The horse may already be out of the barn, however. According to the survey, about half of consumers said they’ll switch away from a card network, financial institution or mobile phone provider that doesn’t offer biometric authentication in the future.

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