Study: Public Embraces Biometrics, With Reservations

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A new study finds that the public is warming up to the use of biometric identification technology, but remains wary of tracking applications and is looking to government to set standards in that area.

After surveying 1000 people, the Center for Identity at the University of Texas (CID) said on May 10 it found that people are relatively comfortable with the technology. About 68 percent of people were at least somewhat comfortable with providing biometric data to an organization, although comfort level varied by the type of data provided. People feel most comfortable with fingerprint scans, and 58 percent of respondents were very comfortable providing them, the survey said.

The study found that government tracking was a major concern for 24 percent of those who were uncomfortable with biometrics, the second most cited reason of concern behind general privacy issues.

Governments will have to work to alleviate those fears, as biometrics presents a range of opportunities for deployment going forward, CID said. Facial scans are an area that especially concerned survey respondents–35 percent rated facial recognition as the method they were least comfortable with, and 13 percent said they were not at all comfortable providing facial scans.

“This could be influenced by the… negative media coverage relating to the use of facial recognition software for tracking and surveillance purposes,” said CID’s Rachel German and Suzanne Barber, the authors of the report. They said respondents were more comfortable providing biometric data about their children to law enforcement, rather than to private sector firms.

Survey results showed that people are looking to government agencies to set the standards for use of biometrics data, as 64 percent think that it’s likely government will set effective safeguards for individual privacy. Eighty-two percent think it’s at least somewhat likely that all Americans will have a biometric ID on file by 2020, the survey found.

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