Public Still Unsure on Biometrics

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Despite the use of biometrics continuing to hit the headlines with companies like Barclays opting to introduce technology such as voice recognition and fingerprint reading to strengthen account security, it appears people are still on the fence about whether to embrace biometric systems or not.

That’s according to new research by independent consultant Jessica Barker, who quizzed 1000 members of the public to gauge their stance on biometrics. Whilst 35.5% of respondents said they would consider using biometric systems instead of passwords to access their internet accounts, 28.7% stated they would avoid doing so as they do not trust them, with more than a fifth also admitting they do not understand how biometrics work and so would opt not to use them. Interestingly, just 12.9% of the sample said they already use biometrics.

“I think on one hand people are fed up with passwords and want an alternative solution which would be easier to manage and more convenient,” Barker told Infosecurity. “At the same time, people are familiar with passwords – their pros and cons – whereas biometrics are much more of an unknown. A lot of people either don't trust biometric systems or don't understand them (or both).

“Cyber-attacks and data breaches are hitting the headlines with increasing frequency so awareness of the risks of technology is higher than ever. Although lots of people would consider biometrics for their perceived convenience, just as many people reject them, perhaps feeling that it's 'better the devil you know' with passwords.”

Further, Barker’s findings unearthed some differing (and slightly surprising) attitudes among age groups, with 18 to 24-year-olds appearing to be the least likely to consider swapping their traditional passwords for biometrics. This was slightly unexpected, as ‘millennials’ are not only known for being particularly ‘tech-savvy’, but also often criticized for having a laissez-faire attitude to privacy and security.

However, only 25.4% of that age group said they would use biometric systems and almost 40% lack trust in them, compared to 45.8% of 35 to 44-year-olds who would consider biometric technology instead of passwords.

Barker explained that, whilst further research is probably needed to really get to the bottom of why younger people appear to be less trusting of biometrics, her research may highlight that millennials are a more security-conscious group than they are given credit for.

“Young people have grown up with the internet and so possibly have a more inherent awareness of technology, data-sharing and associated risks. Perhaps they are more privacy conscious and more wary of sharing their highly personal information. In recent years, many schools have introduced biometric systems and so there is a question as to whether being expected to entrust their schools with their biometric data has instilled in many young people an awareness of the potential pitfalls of such systems,” she added.

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