Biometrics: We’ve Reached the Tipping Point

by Jeffrey Green 0

I, like a growing number of consumers, am atrisk. I have so many password-protected mobile-app, website, bankand other accounts, I just can’t do the right thing, which is touse different user names and passwords for each. So I cheat. I usea select few across multiple accounts. I’m a hacker’s dream.

But I’m not alone. According to CSID, 61% of consumers reusepasswords across multiple websites, and 54% have five or fewerpasswords. Moreover, 44% of consumers change their passwords onlyonce or less per year. Interestingly, 89% of consumers feel secureabout their current use and management of passwords, even though21% have had an online account comprised.

How consumers protect themselves from unauthorized access topersonal information and accounts has reached a tipping point. It’stime for biometrics to go mainstream.

For the sake of increased simplicity and security, I, at least, amwilling to sacrifice a bit of self-righteousness by allowing theuse of one of my unique characteristics, say my fingerprint orvoice, for identification purposes, just to alleviate the need toremember so many user names and passwords. Such biometrictechnology typically uses algorithmic representations, thusrequiring a key to link them with the real thing.

Sure, a court subpoena might open access to the information, butat least a judge sits in the middle of the decision-making process.There are TV shows now that feature facial-recognition biometricsand the Big Brother visuals it creates, but the end resulttypically is to capture the bad guy. And I have yet to hear anyonecomplain about how the use of cameras helped to identify andcapture the Boston Marathon bombers.

We’re becoming accustomed to being watched and identified. Mostconsumers, it appears, are just fine with that, as long as there isno abuse.

I thought we were on our way to accepting biometrics as a commonmeans for identification in the payments process a few years backwhen Solidus’ Pay By Touch was growing its base of grocery and drugstores using its fingerprint algorithm-based payment system. Thoughit had earned some $250 million in venture capital, the money wentto waste, purportedly because of poor company management.

Despite that setback, major players in the payments industry seebiometrics as the future for identifying accountholders. PayPal,for one, recently displayed at a security conference a tombstonefor passwords and PINs, with 1961-2013 etched on it. The paymentsunit of eBay Inc. understands that consumers today may have dozensof password-protected accounts, and the old way of protectingagainst unauthorized access no longer is practical, or safe orsimple.

I’m personally hopeful that Apple, as is rumored, will includebiometrics in its next iPhone iteration. Apple owns AuthenTec,whose offerings include embedded security and identity-managementsoftware, along with fingerprint sensor modules. It also hasvarious patents involving fingerprint biometrics.

Apple traditionally identifies market gaps and opportunities, thencreates a practical solution appealing to a broad range ofconsumers. If the next iPhone comes with embedded biometrics, wewill see the beginning of the end of user names and passwords, andI, like PayPal, will be very pleased to see them go.

What are your thoughts on biometrics? Do you see the technologytaking hold, especially as mobile wallets continue to proliferate?I’d be interested in knowing your thoughts and concerns on thematter.