New Survey on Biometric Technology Shows Consumers Are OK With Some Forms and Wary of Others

Wednesday, May 9, 2018 - 11:00am

Consumers feel more comfortable with fingerprint scanning than with other types of biometric technology, including face, eye, voice and other biometric measurements, according to a survey from the Center for Identity at The University of Texas at Austin.

The findings are part of a two-part research report concerning biometric authentication technology. Part One of the report, titled “Current Biometric Applications and Trends,” offers a comprehensive look at the existing applications for biometric technology in the marketplace, and Part Two, “Consumer Attitudes About Biometric Authentication,” surveys how consumers regard this emerging technology and its impact on privacy.

The report, one of the largest ever conducted on the subject, includes responses from 1,000 consumers from across the U.S., with demographic characteristics described by region, age, gender, political opinion, and more.

“Each day and many times a day, people must prove they are who they say they are. Managing one’s identity credentials from passwords to driver’s licenses to loyalty cards can be a real hassle,” said Suzanne Barber, director of the Center for Identity. “This project shows that organizations are finding a wide range of uses for biometric technology, and users are embracing the convenience.”

The report finds 58 percent of those surveyed say they feel very comfortable with fingerprint scanning biometrics. Only about a third reported feeling very comfortable with any other biometric type. Survey respondents were most unsure about facial recognition technology, with 13 percent feeling “not at all comfortable,” a full 10 percent more than any other type of biometrics. Likely due to the increasing prevalence of biometric applications in the marketplace, the survey also reports that users are more comfortable with private-sector applications than law enforcement initiatives.

The rapid growth of biometrics across industries is widely expected to continue during the next several years, and acceptance for biometric technology appears to be growing, with 92 percent saying they feel “more” or “about the same” level of comfort using biometrics today as they felt two years ago. Fewer than 8 percent reported feeling less comfortable. However, the privacy implications continue to be a significant source of concern for those who say they are uncomfortable about biometrics, with 43 percent citing it as the reason that best describes their discomfort. 

“This research offers a long-awaited look at the trends for biometric applications and consumer adoption. The full potential and wide-spread adoption has not been reached, which motivates us to continue to explore how the future of biometrics unfolds,” Barber said.

The Center for Identity works closely with its public-private partners including corporations, state and federal government agencies and law enforcement to deliver innovations for consumers, businesses and government that help them to better protect people’s identities. As a critical component of its mission, the center conducts research to better understand how emerging technology such as biometrics affects consumers and organizations alike, and how standards and expectations of privacy are evolving.

This research was funded with a grant from TransUnion.