A recent report released by Unisys Corporation revealed that over half of Americans surveyed are willing to offer biometric information to secure their identities. Airport checkpoints, banking transactions and government benefit distribution topped the list of services Americans identified as worthwhile to give up their biometric data in exchange for security and convenience. Interestingly enough, only 21.3% of those surveyed said they were willing to provide their biometric information to social media sites suggesting their distrust with these platforms and their perceived inability to carefully manage biometric identity information. Do these recent survey results suggest that perhaps we have reached the tipping point for Americans greater acceptance of biometric identification technology for security and protection against identity theft?
One of the biggest impediments to widespread acceptance of biometric identification technology in the U.S. has been the overwhelming perception that offering one’s biometric information is akin to sacrificing your right to personal privacy and opening the door to possible identity theft if a hacker or criminal were to steal your identity. What’s worse, unlike an ID card or a personal identification number (PIN), once compromised, biometric information can’t be changed or replaced. This perception combined with additional concerns about governments assembling massive databases on citizens has quelled the adoption of biometrics as a mainstream technology for individual identification. Whereas other countries have openly embraced biometrics as a means to identify individuals, the U.S. has moved much more cautiously with most major biometric deployments coming from the government sector for areas like border security and immigration.
However, the last three years have witnessed steady growth of biometrics within the commercial sector as businesses begin to realize the inherent benefits and potential large returns on investment that biometric identification can bring. Retail is using biometrics for point of sale application secure sign on. Biometrics is enjoying growth in workforce management for time and attendance to combat employee time theft and payroll fraud. Healthcare is using biometrics for patient identification to eliminate duplicate medical records, increase patient safety and lower hospital liability. Fitness clubs now look to biometrics for member ID to avoid the costly fees of maintaining plastic ID cards. And this is all just the tip of the iceberg. As use of mobile devices continues to explode and custom applications simplify the daily tasks of our lives, strong support for biometric technology to secure these devices is increasing. It’s almost as if the technological dynamics of our society has changed information access so radically that biometrics has become a necessity to verify the identity of an individual without a shadow of a doubt.
As more is known about biometrics and word spreads of the benefits it offers to help industries strengthen security, cut waste, stop fraud and lower risk, growth will continue and the technology will flourish in the years to come.