European consumers ready for biometric payments

European consumers are interested in using biometrics when making a payment – especially when integrated with other security measures – according to research carried out for Visa.

The ‘Visa Biometric Payments study’, conducted by market researcher Populus, canvassed opinion from more than 14,000 consumers across seven European countries on their attitude to biometric payments.

Just over two-thirds (68%) of respondents want to use biometric authentication methods to pay for items, particularly when speedy transactions are valued such as buying train tickets or paying in a bar or restaurant. Seventy-three per cent agree that two-factor authentication, where a biometric is used in conjunction with a payment device, is a secure way to confirm an account holder.

Just over half (53%) said they prefer fingerprint over other forms of biometric authentication for payments and 51% think payments will be faster and easier with biometrics over traditional methods. One in three welcomed the idea that biometric authentication would keep their details safe, even if their device was lost or stolen.

However, there is significantly less enthusiasm for voice recognition or the most recent technology of selfie-based recognition. Only 15% would use selfies to make payments and 12% would use voice recognition for authentication. In the UK, the percentages are even lower, at 12% and 8% respectively.

The research found that biometric authentication is almost equally valued in face-to-face payment situations where speed efficiencies are a priority as it is for online transactions.

According to the findings 48% want to use biometric authentication for payments when on public transport; 47% when paying at a bar or restaurant; 46% to purchase goods and services on the high street; 40% for shopping online; and 39% when downloading content.
Biometrics need to be married with other forms of authentication to make a successful payments system, according to Jonathan Vaux, Visa’s executive director of innovation partnerships.

“Biometric identification and verification has created a great deal of excitement in the payments space because it offers an opportunity to streamline and improve the customer experience,” said Vaux. “Our research shows that biometrics is increasingly recognised as a trusted form of authentication as people become more familiar with using these capabilities on their devices.

“Unlike a PIN which is entered either correctly or incorrectly, biometrics are not a binary measurement but are based on the probability of a match.

“Biometrics work best when linked to other factors, such as the device, geolocation technologies or with an additional authentication method. That’s why we believe that it’s important to take a holistic approach that considers a wide range of enabling technologies that contribute to a better end-to-end experience, from provisioning a card to making a purchase to checking your balance.”

Silent authentication

Hakan Nordfjell, e-banking specialist at digital security firm Gemalto UK, is a supporter of biometrics. “It’s encouraging to see more conversations take place around the role biometric sensors can play in authentication,” he says.

“Increased consumer demand for these services highlights the potential this technology has. With most of us having to remember an increasing number of passwords every day, biometric sensors offer a much simpler and convenient way for us to prove our credentials.

“Where we see additional potential is around the area of ‘silent authentication’, where biometrics and behavioral data are analysed in the background and end users are not asked to participate directly. Factors such as location, habits and patterns, customer journeys (such as click speed, page sequence, typing and interaction with touch screen) can be measured to create a behavioral profile that is distinctive and unique to each user.

“Using this profile, all transactions can be analysed and associated with a risk score which represents the confidence the bank has in the identity of the user – allowing banks and other organisations to find the right balance between security and convenience. Silent authentication provides an extra layer of security with real-time risk-based analysis, which helps mitigate fraud without impacting user convenience.”


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