Biometrics are a form of technology that authenticates the user’s identity before they can make a transaction. The most common type of biometric we see today is finger scanning. When you open your phone or app with just your thumbprint, that’s a biometric authentication. It seems like new technology, but this form of identity verification has been around since the mid-2000s.
For merchants and consumers, this is often the most preferred way of doing online transactions because not only is it secure, it’s also very convenient. According to PaymentsSource.com, consumers see biometrics as the most secure way to make a payment. They don’t mind going through the whole vetting process in the beginning if it means it’ll streamline transactions in the future.
In a survey conducted by Mastercard, two-thirds of the participants said they wanted to replace signatures, passwords, and PIN codes with biometrics when it comes to making payments. Compared to two-factor authentication, which can be honestly, quite the hassle. Biometrics provides an added layer of security because they use physical characteristics that are unique to you. Aside from fingerprints, it also uses facial, iris, and voice recognition.
Biometrics: The Issue With Privacy
Biometrics used as identification is definitely a great way to do transactions, but some people are wary of its privacy implications. Your thumbprint, after all, is just as sensitive as any of your personal information, so it only makes sense to be worried.
But should we really be that worried?
First of all, stealing your thumbprint is not as easy as movies make it seem. No one can just take some scotch tape, copy your thumbprint, and scan it through the machine. Technology today is much more sophisticated than that.
Biometric systems don’t just check your thumbprint match; it also checks for “liveness” as in, they verify whether it’s the right person being scanned. With facial recognition, for example, it can be easy just to put up a picture of someone’s face, but a way merchants can verify for liveness is by asking the user to perform a simple movement or read out randomly generated numbers. You certainly can’t fake that.
Besides, even the most experienced professionals will have a hard time putting together bits and pieces of your thumbprint. It would take a lot of time for one hacker to crack one person’s biometric.
Now compare a thumbprint to a password. Passwords may be inherently secure, but they’re easy to crack, and hackers can go for multiple password-protected accounts at once. When that happens, the information you’re trying to protect is also compromised, such as your bank information, social security ID, etc.
Most of the fears around biometric authentication are simply overblown. Yes, it is a legitimate concern, but there are now new legislations in the United States Congress to help people become aware of how their data is being used.
Biometrics as A Security Measure
Biometrics trump all other types of authentication. When you make a transaction online, you never have to feel the fear that someone is tracking your keyboard strokes or that you are downloading dangerous malware. It’s practically impossible to counterfeit biometric data or hack the biometric system.
As mobile payments become the more preferred way of doing transactions, we can expect to see more companies use biometrics as a forms of payment. One such example is Mastercard with their current project being the wearable sensor.
They’ve already rolled out fingerprint scanning and facial recognition. This new technology authenticates the user with their heartbeat! Sounds strange but hey, would you rather have that or get heart-attack inducing anxiety due to a password data breach in your bank?
We’ve explored how biometrics can be a more secure way of making payments and its privacy implications on the user.
But what about you? What are your thoughts on this issue? Share them in the comments below!