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Consumers Are Skeptical About Biometric Data Security: How Companies Can Respond

February 25, 2020

In 2014, Apple’s introduction of the iPhone 6 was more than just an exciting iteration of its flagship product – it was the launch of Touch ID. This blockbuster device ushered in a new era of widespread biometric data use for the layman. Fingerprints had replaced passcodes as device gatekeepers, charged with protecting the most important, sensitive information.

Today, fingerprint identification is ubiquitous among tech hardware, collectively achieving a market size that could exceed $7 billion by 2024. In some markets, fingerprint swipes are already becoming antiquated as facial recognition sensors start to replace hardware buttons. Device access is becoming more convenient but also more personal. These authentication methodologies are joined by innovation in other biometric data fields like voice recognition, retina or iris scans, and DNA features.

What’s more, the implementation of biometric authentication is spreading far and wide across the modern electronic landscape. According to a study by the University of Texas, “information technology, finance, and government show the most increase in biometric authentication, with retail and software services close behind.” Every industry is being radically disrupted by biometric authentication leaving many consumers are concerned about the security of their identifying data during this rapid transition.

Causes for Concern

In 2020, people are accustomed to exchanging their personal information for access to digital platforms. However, as we report each week in our security news blog, companies of every size struggle to protect this sensitive information, leading many consumers to wonder if their biometric data is safe from cybercriminals.

A recent study by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) found that the vast majority of Australians are concerned about the security of their biometric data. Specifically, 83% of participants noted that they are “extremely concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about biometric data privacy. 81% of respondents are worried about the transition pace. The majority of respondents did not want to be forced to provide biometric data because of potential data privacy breaches. In total, Australians responded to 13 risk categories, expressing an overwhelming skepticism about biometric authentication.

This isn’t just an anomaly from the Land Down Under. A 2019 survey by the Wharton University found that nearly half of Americans are concerned about the privacy risks associated with biometric authentication. In addition, 56% of Europeans express similar hesitations.

Unlike account passwords or credit card numbers, biometric data cannot be changed. By obtaining biometric data, hackers can commit identity theft or otherwise disrupt peoples’ personal lives in a way that is hard to fix. Therefore, as CPO Magazine notes, consumers are rightfully worried about “The security issues regarding biometric data (that) focus on how sensitive information is captured, stored, processed, transmitted, and accessed.”

Consumers’ fears are already starting to come coming to fruition. Specifically, a 2019 breach at Biostar 2 compromised fingerprints of more than one million people.

How Companies Should Respond

Biometrics are undoubtedly a faster, simpler, and in some cases, more secure way to access account data and secure sensitive information. With billions of people already accessing their smartphones and other hardware devices using this approach, biometric authentication is likely to become more prominent in the years ahead.

Despite their concerns, many consumers are still expecting companies to adopt biometric data as a way to increase account security. The same Australian survey that identified broad skepticism about the safety of adopting widespread biometric data use found that nearly three-quarters of respondents were still willing to use various forms of biometrics in the future, and 25% would even consent to a skin implantation.

Ultimately, adopting biometric authentication may not be a question of “if” or “when” but “how”. That means making a plan to identify potential weaknesses and threats as well as increase the security of sensitive data. When creating a plan to implement biometric data security measures, companies should:

#1 Take a Multifaceted Approach. Remember that biometrics are not a magic cure for data security. Failing to incorporate other defensive measures, like two-factor authentication, can still leave accounts vulnerable.

#2 Prioritize data security at every point. Before turning to biometric authentication, evaluate your company’s overall data security posture and prepare for adoption by ensuring that your standards are ready to accommodate even more critical personal data.

#3 Value what you collect. Tech platforms already collect peoples’ sensitive personal information, but biometrics takes that a step further. Unlike a password or other user ID, biometric information is a unique part of every person and it can’t be changed if it’s compromised. With data privacy regulations increasingly dictating how companies manage personal information, make compliance a day-one priority.

Undoubtedly, many companies will pursue adopting biometric technology in the years ahead. Don’t embark on this critical project alone. ID Agent is ready to partner with you in a holistic effort to secure your company and customer data while ensuring quick, easy access for users,- and preventing bad actors from compromising your most critical information.