Biometric authentication gathers momentum in the UK

The introduction of biometric authentication might have been met with some scepticism, and the technology still has its critics, but it does seem to be gaining traction in the UK.

According to credit reporting agency Equifax, not only are more Brits using the technology, but they are open to adopting such authentication and identification techniques in a wider range of scenarios. Opening a smartphone might be the most widely-adopted use of the technology, but how about age authentication in the pub?

71% of respondents for the survey are happy with finger-print or facial recognition to complete replace traditional PIN verification for accessing smartphones, while another 64% would be happy to see the technologies replace passwords for laptops. 60% of respondents are happy for biometric authentication for age verification and 58% would even be open to see voting ballots given the same upgrade.

Interestingly enough, the challenge which the industry will face is most likely to be around privacy and data protection concerns. With data breaches and leaks being reported in the press with continued regularity, consumer confidence will certainly be impacted. And the irony this survey has been sponsored by Equifax, the source of one of the biggest data breaches to date, has not been lost on us.

That said, while there are still data protection and privacy concerns to be ironed-out, new technologies will be needed to address the dangers and risks of the digital economy.

“As the rise in financial fraud continues, particularly when it comes to identity theft, it’s essential we develop and embrace new and innovative means to protect consumers,” said Keith McGill, Head of ID & Fraud at Equifax.

“The techniques being used to scam Brits are increasingly sophisticated and breaking into the old world of signatures and pin codes is bread and butter for today’s fraudsters.

“Further implementation of biometric options within the financial services sector will go a long way to tackle this. Tapping into our unique biological passcodes can help businesses and consumers stay ahead of the curve, and as the technology develops, it will become even more widespread, trusted and popular in the years to come.”

One telco which is trialling a similar proposition is Telia. Teaming up with Finnish bank OP, the duo is testing facial recognition payment solutions for an ice-cream truck. Using the biometric template uploaded through a camera prior to the purchase with the customers bank, a connected device is used by the merchant to authenticate the individual. The customer then authorises the purchase with a simple click once their face has been recognised.

This is of course a very rudimentary application of the technology, but with the introduction of 5G, edge-computing gathering pace and greater adoption of blockchain technology, biometric authentication could be a very reliable, efficient and secure means of managing identification and transactions in the digital economy.

The next big challenge will be the public perception of not only the technology, but a company’s ability to safely collect, store and manage data. The frequency of data breaches and leaks could undermine progress here, though a more responsible attitude towards security does seem to be emerging. Security does seem to be more than a pitch for PR points today, a welcome trend if the digital economy is to be an enabler not a risk to society and the economy.

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