Biometric Mobile Payments: Is the “Creepy Factor” Holding Adoption Back?

September 27, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

While there are plenty of people out there eager to start paying for things with a thumbprint, or even a retinal scan, there are a likewise plenty—possibly even bigger—that find the whole concept downright creepy. A recent report examined the issue more closely and discovered that there are several obstacles in the way of widespread acceptance of biometric mobile payments.

There’s a lot to like about biometric payments. When your thumb or your eye or the like becomes your mobile payments system, a lot of “friction,” as some call it, is removed from the system. There’s no longer a need to have a plastic card, or remember a password / username / PIN or whatever combination is required by the issuing authority. It’s all contained right in the organ connected and the information that’s been associated with it.

But it’s the “creepy factor” that may prove the most daunting going forward. It’s not just physical biometrics that’s involved here, though that’s issue enough for some. If a system is to identify a user by certain physical characteristics, then that requires in turn ultra-sensitive monitoring designed to not only pick up on those cues, but use them as well.

Plus, for a lot of people out there, there are darker echoes of “the mark of the beast” to consider, and that’s going to keep a lot of people out of the market altogether when it comes to making payments through, say, a chip or barcode tattoo that’s been implanted in the hand or on the forehead. Granted, some forms of biometric payments may not be such an issue. Thumbprint or fingerprint payments, for example, have no negative connotations to them. Yet it’s going to come down to just how well service providers can make a case for improved security, convenience and so on.

Issues of security are also rearing their collective ugly head once again, as only 13 percent of customers in a Visa survey trusted biometrics for security. It’s still a new market, and there will be plenty of bumps in the road. With proper education, there may be a way around many of these problems, and a way that service providers will have to find in order to get anywhere with this concept.