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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

European consumers warming to biometrics

15 July, 2013
A survey has shown widespread acceptance of biometric identification for crime-fighting in Europe with cooler response to potential for banking applications.


IT service management company Steria conducted the survey across Europe recently and found that over 80% of respondents were in favour of the use of biometrics for identifying criminals, nearly 70% favoured its use in passports and access control whilst less than half thought it would be a good idea to replace banking PIN codes with biometric technology.



The consumerisation of biometrics has taken off in recent years with improvements in technology to enable mass enrolment and a number of successful trials in consumer applications particularly in access control and passport processing with many countries having now adopted biometric passports as the norm.



Earlier, the technology was limited to enforcement applications and had niche applications in criminal identification particularly at passport control points in a number of countries.



One of the barriers that the biometric industry has had to overcome has been public acceptance. Resistance to biometrics came mainly from two directions - intrusiveness and potential for identity theft. Biometrics was often considered intrusive because of the personal nature of the scanning methods, particularly Iris recognition where the subject's eyes are scanned. Despite the safe procedure, it was generally considered unacceptable. Fingerprint scanning has its history rooted in criminal investigations which resulted in further resistance, much of which has now been overcome.



Potential for identity theft also stemmed from the highly personal nature of biometric parameters. A common belief held by some consumers still exists that if your face can be identified then it can be stolen and recreated. Awareness campaigns have helped to some extent and educating users on the way such systems work can alleviate such fears.



The results of the Steria survey are encouraging and demonstrate that there is more widespread awareness of biometric technology benefits within Europe, particularly in France where acceptance rates were considerably higher for all applications than neighbouring Germany and the UK.



However, it also shows there is still much to be done for biometrics to gain widespread acceptance as a means of authentication financial transactions.


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