Privacy is important, but concerns about the issue are a major obstacle for the biometrics industry. That seems to be the takeaway from FindBiometrics’ latest Year in Review survey, so far as privacy issues are concerned.
The conclusion comes by way of a few different questions. Regarding the importance of privacy, we can look to Question 28, which asked respondents whether they agreed with the statement, “Digital and physical privacy is a fundamental right.” An overwhelming majority – about 88.7 percent – agreed, with 56 percent indicating that they ‘strongly agree’. Notably, there were more privacy skeptics in 2020 than in 2019, when only six percent of respondents indicated that they disagree that privacy is a fundamental right. But the overall consensus holds strong.
That having been said, Question 16 shows that a huge majority of respondents agreed with the statement, “Privacy concerns are a major obstacle in consumer biometric adoption.” About 78.3 percent agreed, with 46 percent saying they ‘strongly agree’. This speaks to the commonplace perception that consumers are reluctant to share their biometric data due to fears that it will compromise their privacy.
Such concerns are understandable. Data breaches are, unfortunately, a fairly common occurrence; and there have been high-profile data breach events in which biometric data has been compromised. In 2019, for example, the US Customs and Border Protection agency revealed that one of its subcontractors had suffered a hack attack in which 200,000 facial images were compromised. Ironically, it appears those images were being used to train a facial recognition algorithm, according to reporting from The Washington Post.
Such incidents would naturally have a chilling effect on consumers’ willingness to share their biometric data. And yet consumer attitudes on this issue can be conflicted: a recent report from Entrust showed that while most consumers surveyed (79 percent) expressed concern about data privacy, an even larger majority (83 percent) said they would be willing to share their biometric data with an app, depending on factors like convenience and transparency about its use of user data.
That willingness to share biometric data would likely increase if consumers were informed about the use of privacy-protecting measures like strong data encryption – practices on which a growing number of biometric technology vendors have been placing a stronger focus. As competition continues to heat up and industry leaders keep exploring sophisticated means of keeping server-based biometric data secure, even in the event of a data breach, their solutions should help to further assuage consumer concerns about privacy.
Meanwhile, the regulatory side of things could help to dispel privacy concerns, too. This is illustrated in the answers to Question 19 of the FindBiometrics Year in Review survey, which asked participants whether they agreed with the statement, “Privacy regulations like CCPA, BIPA and GDPR make me feel safe when enrolling in biometric systems.” About 75.7 percent agreed, with 40.7 percent saying they ‘strongly agree’, and only 19.2 percent indicating that they disagree. While regulatory frameworks like BIPA have been getting a lot of companies into trouble for their use of biometric technologies, these survey results suggest that regulations can actually help to encourage the sharing of biometric data on the consumer side by helping to make end users feel more confident that their privacy will be protected.
And given that there may be a healthy amount of skepticism about such regulations among the industry professionals who participated in the Year in Review survey, these results suggest that the calming effects of regulations on everyday consumers could be even stronger. This may point to part of the solution to overcoming the “major obstacle” of privacy concerns in the consumer biometrics market, with further regulatory changes working alongside stronger security approaches among vendors to help get more consumers sharing biometric data in the future while feeling more confident than ever that their privacy is being protected.
The 2020 FindBiometrics Year in Review is made possible by our sponsors: Aware, BioConnect, FacePhi, Innovatrics, Jumio, NEC Corporation of America, and Onfido.
February 9, 2021 – by Alex Perala