Is Fingerprinting the Next Mobile Security Option? / Financial Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Passwords aren't as safe as they used to be, but will they be replaced by fingerprinting? The security is in the hands of the customer.

Mobile payment technology has been available to customers and merchants for less than a decade, but in that time, there have been several evolutions and advancements in the mobile payment technology.

With each, the technology has become more efficient, affordable and functional for customers and merchants. The next update that may further evolve the mobile payments industry? Fingerprint technology.

Here’s a look at how fingerprints might function in a mobile payment transaction, and the advantages it could offer:

Passwords are no longer enough

Consumers have become accustomed to establishing and using passwords to gain access to accounts used in their personal and professional lives. However, in the wake of various data breaches that have impacted big box retailers, financial institutions and government agencies (and their customers), password technology is no longer sufficient to protecting customer identities.

Though biometric features like retina identification and fingerprint technology have been incorporated into some consumer-facing technologies like the Apple iPhone 5 and select Android devices for a few years, fingerprints in the mobile experience are still in the infancy stage. Despite the low level of awareness most consumers may have with biometric technology, the vulnerabilities the data breaches mentioned above have presented a need to move forward.

Related Article: Are Your Passwords Safe? Why You Might Be More Vulnerable Than You Think

A security method consumers can understand

Despite that mobile payments can deliver customers and accepting merchants increased convenience (in the form of payment options) and streamlined checkout processes (which may negate the need for a traditional checkout line altogether), mobile payment adoption remains low compared to the prevalent role mobile devices now play in users’ daily lives.

In fact, one Accenture study revealed that just 16 percent of smartphone owners had ever used mobile payment despite the comparatively high awareness that the technology was available.  A survey conducted in March 2015 by indicated much of the same. Even with the media attention surrounding newer mobile payment technology like ApplePay, consumers still aren’t convinced of its value.

Just 17 percent of the 1,000 consumers surveyed said they would use mobile payment technology to pay “always” or “most of the time.” Compared to similar survey results gathered in September 2013, the percentage of respondents who would “never” or “hardly ever” use mobile payments actually increased, from 62 percent in 2013 to 64 percent in 2015.

Mobile users’ misunderstanding of the security mobile payment technology offers is in part to blame. Nearly half of respondents to Accenture’s study said they weren’t interested in mobile payments because of security concerns; 37 percent stated privacy as the barrier. However, mobile payment technology may in fact deliver on both security and privacy, but it’s a complicated technology that consumers may not understand. 

By contrast, it’s common knowledge that fingerprints are a unique identifier. No two are alike, and they’re nearly impossible to counterfeit. The sense of familiarity consumers have with fingerprints may incite a greater likelihood to try the technology, and in turn, enhance the perceived security mobile payments offer.

Related Article: Why Mobile Banking Is The Future

The customer is empowered in all mobile transactions

As explained by experts at CrucialTec, one of the premier providers of biometric technology, fingerprints as a security measure are so appealing because they empower the user. The security is literally in the hands of the customer.

Users can store up to 10 fingerprints (one for each finger) into a mobile device. For example, one finger might authenticate entrance into a social media account, while another authorizes banking and mobile payment transactions. Another fingerprint might gain access to private professional files. In addition to security, it offers convenience: Each fingerprint is a shortcut to accessing various apps and websites; no password required.

Not only does this level of security ensure privacy (the account owner is the only person with the fingerprint required for access, after all), it eliminates the need to protect data that can easily be duplicated or “guessed,” like a password.  Even mobile devices that are stolen or lost are essentially rendered useless, unless the rightful owner (and his fingerprint) is present.

Though fingerprints likely won’t enter the mobile payments experience for at least a few years, the benefits to customers and merchants are plenty: Increased convenience, heightened security and reduced risk of fraud, for both parties.

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