The use of biometrics has exploded in recent years, particularly fingerprint and facial recognition on mobile devices, as a secure means of passwordless authentication to grant access. But concerns about the actual security of such methods have been growing, even as incidents of data breaches and intrusions into business-critical and personal systems have increased sharply in the last couple of years.
But with the rise of mobile-based e-commerce and the proliferation of smartphones, facial and fingerprint recognition systems to verify identities and unlock connected devices are very much here for the foreseeable future. But are they a reliable means of password-free identity verification?
There are ethical and technical concerns about the security of facial recognition algorithms. Privacy advocates argue that facial recognition databases can be exploited for malicious purposes, and there are also doubts about the legal use of facial biometrics by law enforcement agencies – would it be legally binding?
A recent rulebook published by the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with INTERPOL and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), provided feedback that in the face of changing policing strategies, facial recognition algorithms can indeed be used, as an investigative leader, if not for actual enforcement in a court.
But how does the average consumer experience facial recognition technology as a biometric security measure? A recent survey by facial recognition firm CyberLink, conducted by third-party research firm YouGov, of 2,455 US adults aged 18 and over found that around four in 10 Americans use facial biometrics at least once a day with a mobile app.
68% of respondents use facial recognition to unlock their smartphone, laptop or other personal devices, while 51% use it to log into a phone app. Of these people, 18- to 24-year-olds (popularly referred to as the ‘Gen Z’ age group) and up to 34-year-olds (‘millennials’) are the largest user group by age – three-quarters (75%) of them regularly unlock their devices using facial recognition.
“The explosion of mobile apps, the password nightmare they generated and the facial login solution that followed led to the initial mass market adoption,” commented CyberLink CEO Jau Huang, highlighting how facial biometrics were seen as a reliable alternative to less reliable passwords these days.
Even among individuals unwilling to adopt facial biometrics, the survey found that more than half (52%) would still use it in a commercial outlet such as a store or restaurant, if there were assurances that their personal information and other sensitive data would be protected. And 42% would consider facial technologies to improve security at homes and workplaces.
Convenience and ease of use will also convince reluctant users. For example, almost half (45%) of respondents in the CyberLink study said they would use facial recognition if it would reduce waiting time in queues. A further 43% would adopt biometrics if it made purchasing goods faster and more accessible as opposed to traditional means.
“There is a perception that people are not ready for facial recognition technology, but almost all of us use it every day in one way or another,” CyberLink’s Huang pointed out. “New applications for AI-based computer vision and facial recognition are constantly emerging.”
Some of these use cases are already gaining mass adoption, with the report highlighting the use of facial recognition technologies in more than half of airports (55%), banks (54%) and doctors’ offices (53%) in the US-centric survey .
Huang said biometric solutions powered by artificial intelligence (AI) could be a reliable option to address the talent shortage affecting many sectors during the pandemic, as many service-level employees were laid off to cut costs as businesses digitized their operations. .
“Many see AI-based automation as a key solution to the current labor crisis,” he added. “Traditional and online businesses use facial recognition to automate a wide range of activities, from security and access control to self-service, statistics and the many facets of customer experience.”
Other aspects revealed in the research were that current opponents of facial recognition would consider adopting the technology for security reasons after the pandemic, such as ensuring the proper use of masks on faces (23%) and reducing or eliminating human contact altogether (20 %). Another 20% would consider adopting facial recognition solutions if they could afford them a more premium experience, such as a VIP express checkout on e-commerce.