Biometric Payments Faces Unlikely Opposition: Security Concerns

August 17, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

When I first saw the report that Transaction Network Services (TNS) had sent our way about how biometric payments were facing opposition over security concerns, I thought I’d finally lost my mind. How could biometric payments ever be less than secure? It’s not like anyone else has your thumb, or your eye, to make the proper scans required to gain access to the system. The report, though, raised some disturbing points that suggest maybe biometrics safety isn’t quite what it’s cracked up to be, at least, not yet.

The TNS report—dubbed “Vital Insights into Biometric Payments Adoption”—featured responses from the US, the UK and Australia, covering about a thousand respondents per country. The study found that biometric payments rates haven’t really increased since the last time this study was done back in 2016.

Adults in the UK have used biometric payments slightly more than their US and Australian counterparts, but the numbers are proportionally about the same. As ever, the 18-24 year old market has used biometric payments significantly more than their elders; after about 45, rates plummet, and almost suddenly.

The biggest culprit in slow advances, reports note, is security matters. The familiar bugaboo for mobile payments since mobile payments existed, 61 percent of those surveyed cited security as the biggest concern. That number was down slightly from the 2016 study, but it was clear that security was still the big sticking point.

The fact that the study uses data from three different countries—with inherently different views on security as a whole—is a bit of a problem. Yet considering how close the three were on their answers, maybe that’s not such a problem after all. Granted, security can be a bit of a problem here—if someone gets a hold of that biometric data, it’s like having a digital copy of your thumb or eye available—but this should be surmountable with a little encryption and proper data security to make sure the matches stored on file remain stored on file rather than in some hacker’s hands.

Security has always been a problem for mobile payments, and the only way to beat it is to demonstrate safety. Some pilot programs might be helpful here, especially ones that run without problems.