Paying by facial recognition? Still too creepy, say consumers

The tech is out there and pretty foolproof. So what is the future for biometric payments and facial recognition in the minds of consumers & businesses?
6 March 2018

Attitudes to biometric authentication vary, with many uncomfortable with the concept. Source: Shutterstock

As the world moves inexorably towards a cashless, and electronically-based payment upon me, consumer attitudes to biometric recognition technologies are still varied. The technology has quite a long way to go, it seems, to drive acceptance across the board.

The Apple iPhone X uses projection and infrared technology to create 3-D maps of a user’s face (hacked, naturally, within just a few days of the phone’s release) and this can be used to authenticate the user to Apple Pay, for instance, instead of a fingerprint.

Prototypes already exist of powering the entire in-store shopping experience with biometric technology, such as trials in Chinese outlets of grocery shopping entirely run using the biometric technology.

Apple devices aren’t the only ones, however – a host of apps also rely on fingerprint biometrics to protect sensitive data, and Android phones began using fingerprint recognition tech well before Apple!

That being said, though we’re hurtling towards a world where biometrics are included in most next-generation devices, are people really excited about its prospects? The jury is still out on that.

In fact, data from Morning Consult, as reported by research house eMarketer, ran a survey that found that there’s a major split among consumers about how much they want facial recognition tech.

Morning Consult found that in a survey of US users, 34 percent of respondents have a positive outlook on facial recognition software – that’s compared to the 39 percent that said they didn’t like the idea of the technology, and the 26 percent who said they didn’t have much of an opinion about it.

Demographics-wise, women were reported to have more negative associations and views toward this type of technology. Forty-one percent of women said they did not have a favorable view of facial recognition, compared to the 30 percent who said they were all right. Men had an even split across both sentiments.

It’s probably then not surprising considering a separate eMarketer research project that found that many only 15 percent of respondents found next-generation technologies such as artificial intelligence and facial recognition “cool”. In fact, most users find these kinds of tech “creepy” and disconcerting that they would be interacting with robots rather than actual people in the future.

It’s an interesting phenomenon that we perhaps have not addressed despite the fact that our adoption of new technologies is accelerating faster than our ability to reimagine our way of life with these new innovations. The “creepy” factor of these human-like technologies could potentially affect how and what new inventions will gain widespread adoption, so companies should probably think about whether or not certain tech should get implemented.

The reaction to Apple’s new iPhone X has been incredibly warm, especially because of the goodies packed into its tiny framework. Though the company’s new offering is pretty late to the facial recognition game, the world’s most valuable technology firm has a hit with their 10th-anniversary phone and its headline-grabbing tech.