Biometrics (finally) gaining widespread acceptance


It’s time for passwords to die, they said. Passwords are antiquated and don’t provide the level of security needed, they said. This was the marketing mantra of many an authentication and identity management vendor — 20 years ago. Of course, then, passwords were not on their way out. They were still on their way up.

In recent years we’ve heard the same mantra again: that it’s time for the password to vanish and users to turn to biometrics. The reality is that it has never really gone away. It’s just quieted down from time to time. So where are we?

It seems biometrics, at least certain types, are growing more popular among consumers. According to the findings from a pair of reports from the Center for Identity at The University of Texas at Austin, people are most comfortable with fingerprint biometrics, compared to other types of biometrics such as face, eye, and voice.

Part one of the two-part report, Current Biometric Applications and Trends takes a look at existing biometric applications available, while the second part Consumer Attitudes About Biometric Authentication surveys consumer sentiment on biometrics and privacy. According to the University of Texas, the report is one of the largest ever conducted on the subject, and includes responses from 1,000 consumers from across the U.S. The research was funded with a grant from TransUnion.

58 percent of those surveyed said they feel very comfortable with fingerprint scanning biometrics. Only about a third reported feeling very comfortable with any other biometric type. Survey respondents were most unsure about facial recognition technology, with 13 percent feeling “not at all comfortable,” a full 10 percent more than any other type of biometric. Likely due to the increasing prevalence of biometric applications in the marketplace, the survey also found that users are more comfortable with private-sector applications than law enforcement initiatives.

The report respondents expect that the rapid growth of biometrics across industries will continue for the next several years, and acceptance for biometric technology will keep growing. A full  92 percent reported feeling “more” or “about the same” level of comfort using biometrics today as they felt two years ago. Fewer than 8 percent reported feeling less comfortable. “However, the privacy implications continue to be a significant source of concern for those who say they are uncomfortable about biometrics, with 43 percent citing it as the reason that best describes their discomfort,” the university stated in this news release.

“This research offers a long-awaited look at the trends for biometric applications and consumer adoption. The full potential and wide-spread adoption has not been reached, which motivates us to continue to explore how the future of biometrics unfolds,” said Suzanne Barber, director of the Center for Identity. “This project shows that organizations are finding a wide range of uses for biometric technology, and users are embracing the convenience.”

I’ve read surveys like this before, and widespread adoption of biometrics just didn’t come to pass. I think the smartphone biometric authentication has helped to change that and this time could really be the time biometrics take off.


  1. Biometrics such as Face and Voice make it possible to provide strong authentication while keeping the experience smooth for the user. Our experience with the Mobile-App-Only UK Atom Bank underlines that consumers expect a excellent user experience without compromise to their security.


  1. […] enabling access to a device using your face or fingerprint through to using the intelligent cloud to prioritize the information you need to access, workplace […]

  2. […] of this has changed, as many of these factors have improved over the years, as we covered in Biometrics finally gaining widespread acceptance. In that post we covered how biometrics are growing more popular, especially as it comes to […]

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