Are Consumers Afraid of Biometrics for E-Commerce?

Researchers found that 81% of consumers still favor passwords for making payments online due to concerns about the security of new biometric options.

Paysafe, a UK payment gateway provider, took a look at what people said they wanted to do when faced with online commerce. They found that 81% of consumers still favor passwords for making payments online due to concerns about the security of new biometric options. At the same time, 61% of consumers also agree that using biometrics is a much quicker and efficient way of paying for goods and services compared to existing systems.

The research for the report "Lost in Transaction: The end of risk?” was conducted by Loudhouse, a London-based research agency, in April 2019. The US, Canada, UK, Germany, Austria and Bulgaria were covered. All told, 6,197 online interviews were conducted and these were weighted in order to make the findings both "nationally and demographically representative."

There is a demonstrable age shift of who is actually making online payments using biometric payment verification. The report says the current adoption rate of online payments using biometrics is highest for 18-24-year-olds (69%), the so-called mobile natives with income supporting online shopping. The adoption rate also exceeds 60% for consumers in the 25-39 age bracket (61%) and for 16-17-year-olds (60%), and then falls significantly for every age group over 40. Thirty six percent of 40-54-year-olds have used biometrics to verify online payments, falling further to 21% of 55-64-year-olds and finally 10% of over 65-year-olds. The older you are, the less likely you are to use biometric verification in mobile online purchases.

The survey then tried to find out what was stopping biometric adoption in all age groups. The major area of concern for non-users was a lack of trust, which was their primary stated reason for avoiding them.

Also, non-users expressed other concerns including:

  • Nearly half (45%) stated they did not want companies having access to their personal biometric details
  • 35% did not know enough about biometrics to trust it
  • Nearly a third (31%) were concerned that their fingerprint could easily be cloned and used to commit fraud. Fingerprints are currently the most used biometric in mobile app payment verification systems (38%) followed by one in six (17%) having used facial recognition and one in ten (11%) voice-activated technologies.
  • 28% said biometrics did not "seem safe."

Commenting on the report, Daniel Kornitzer, chief business development officer for the Paysafe Group, said: "Biometrics are a huge opportunity for the payments industry to combat the increasing risk of card-not-present fraud. However, it's not surprising that there is reluctance among consumers to use biometrics as a form of payment authentication when passwords and PINs have been the central pillar of financial data security for at least 20 years."

To make the online buying experience frictionless, biometric authentication adoption will increase. But companies will need to address consumer's mistrust of the differing systems and show them their information will remain secure.

— Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek.

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