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ID theft fears drive support for biometric verification

09 December 2008  |  10236 views  |  1 biometrics - eye

Over two thirds of people would be willing to undergo fingerprint scans to verify their identities when dealing with banks and government organisations, according to a global survey from Unisys.

The Unisys Security Index surveyed more than 12,000 people in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, France, Germany, Holland, Hong Kong, Italy, New Zealand, Malaysia, Spain, the United Kingdom and United States.

The poll reveals that only personal passwords rank higher than fingerprint scans as respondents' preferred identification verification method, by just one per cent.

Fingerprint scans are the most trusted form of biometric identification, ahead of facial scans, on 44%, and scanning blood vessels in the hand, on 38%.

Respondents in Malaysia and Australia - where the use of biometrics is already widespread - are most accepting of the technology.

Around three quarters of UK respondents would accept fingerprint scanning, compared to 72% of Americans. There is less interest in mainland Europe, with just 59% responding positively in France, 62% in Germany and 63% in Italy.

The high acceptance of biometric verification comes as respondents continue to express concern about identity theft. Unisys' security index shows that worry about the fraudulent use of credit or debit cards ranked the number one or two highest concern in 11 of 13 countries surveyed. Identity theft ranked as first or second highest concern in 10 countries.

In the US, 62% say they are extremely or very concerned about the safety of their personal information, and 60% express serious concern about credit and debit card fraud.

Terry Hartmann, VP, global identity and credentialing practice, Unisys, says: "Fears about fraud and ID theft clearly aren't going away. Adoption of biometric ID verification is one solution where we see widespread consumer support, although many organisations have yet to embrace this technology as an effective way to protect data and identities."

Last year Unisys research found a massive 92% of UK consumers and 69% of US customers surveyed would prefer banks, credit card companies, healthcare providers and government organisations to use biometric technologies to verify personal identities, rather than other protection measures such as smart cards, security tokens, passwords and PINs.

Comments: (1)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member | 09 December, 2008, 19:50

Is this or is this not Spin City?  Two thirds of us, apparently, would be happy for banks to verify customers' identities using fingerprints, but fingerprints still rank below passwords as the preferred method of identity verification.  I sit well and truly in the other 33% - I would ABSOLUTELY not want to think that my bank was in possession of any of my biometrics.  If it's any consolation, I would also ABSOLUTELY not want to think that the government was in possession of them either.

Could it be that Unysis has some biometric systems they want to shift?  Maybe.

Once again, we appear to be heading blindly off down the "solve the problem with technology" route, without actually looking at the cause of the problem.  What's the problem - phishing and related scams perpetrated by individuals and organisations that AREN'T banks.  How will verifying myself to the bank prevent the scammers from scamming me?  

The problem is the banks.  How can I tell that the call I have just received is from my bank, and not from Johnny Scammer posing as my bank with an East Indian accent.  Whenever I receive calls from so-called banks, I ask the caller to prove to me that they are the bank - I spent 90 minutes on the phone to HSBC because they couldn't work out how to do it.  Mostly they just give up. 

Scammers gain access to customer accounts because customers give up the means of access - it's nothing clever.  Who's to say that the same scammers won't be able to extract biometric data from the same customers?  It just needs a different mechanism.  

What would stop the scammers would be a means by which the customers could verify that the phone call or email was really coming from the bank!  But the bank's really don't want to shoulder the responsibility - after all, it's not their money.

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