Once confined to the realm of sci-fi films, biometric technologies are becoming an increasingly present factor in our daily lives. From unlocking smartphones with fingerprints to looking into a camera to get through airport passport barriers, biometrics technology is all around us. But although it brings powerful advantages – including speedy and secure credit card processing – many consumers are yet to be convinced.

For consumers concerned about fraud, biometrics could be the answer. Fifty-three percent of consumers are concerned about a personal data hack, according to Worldpay from FIS’s recent Consumer Behaviour & Payments Report 2019, which surveyed 2,500 UK consumers about their purchasing behavior online and in-store. This isn’t surprising – fraud has increased a whopping 16 percent compared to 2017.

About the author

Motie Bring is the General Manager for EMEA, Global eCommerce, Worldpay.

What is surprising, though, is that 54 percent of consumers still believe passwords to be more secure than biometrics. While biometrics are infinitely more secure than passwords and far harder to falsify than other forms of identification, consumers still cling to passwords – even though weak passwords were the culprit of 500,000 accounts hacked in the last year alone. 

Some consumers are wary of biometrics due to perceptions about the amount of their personal data that companies are gathering, and what it’s being used for. This is in part fueled by high-profile data breaches – most recently by Marriott – and allegations of misuse of data like those by Facebook and Google. Today, 53 percent of consumers apprehensive of biometrics are concerned about the risk of identity theft, and 53 percent were concerned about invasions of privacy. An alarming 60 percent said the technology simply “doesn’t feel right”. 

Interestingly, these views are not shared equally by all age groups. According to the Consumer Behaviour & Payments Report 2019, younger generations like Gen Z (18-21) were 50 percent more likely to embrace biometrics, compared to 17 percent of Baby Boomers. This signals a changing tide around how consumers view biometrics. 

As well as offering superior security in the fight against fraud, biometrics also provides the best balance of speed and endpoint security of any identification technology on the market. Biometrics are proving increasingly popular following the European Banking Authority’s 2018 PSD2 legislation in Europe, which requires two-factor authentication for transactions – in other words, a second form of identification alongside a payment card – including a PIN, one-time password, or biometrics.

Biometrics have the power to speed authentication under PSD2. There are many types of biometrics, which have varying ranges of acceptance: fingerprint scanning enjoys the highest approval rate at 42 percent, most likely as it one of the most established and widely used forms of biometric identification. Meanwhile, more emergent forms of biometric identification like eye and facial recognition hover around 20 percent acceptance, while voice recognition has a 13 percent acceptance. As these technologies become more widespread, for example through integration in smartphone devices, these biometrics are likely to be more widely accepted.

Biometrics is the most convenient option for consumers and merchant services alike as it is simultaneously fast, simple, and secure. However, consumers remain hesitant to use biometrics due to perceptions about their privacy and security, especially in relation to online payments, which shows just how far retailers have to go in educating their customers. While acceptance will naturally improve as more consumers use the technology, there is still a knowledge gap in the market that needs to be addressed. As the younger generations continues to readily embrace biometrics, retailers who help apprehensive consumers understand the benefits and enable payment through preferred payment methods stand to benefit.