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January 26, 2016

Thumbs Up to Biometrics

By Michael McTwigan

Are you ready to approve your lunch order at the corner deli with a touch of your finger? Sick and tired of having to remember a different password for every website you shop with? Join millions of consumers worldwide who say they worry about card fraud, don’t put much stock in a signature as proof of authorization, and are fed up with passwords.

You might be ready for “biometrics”—replacing less secure forms of payment authentication with something about you that no one else has: your fingerprint, the sound of your voice, or your facial features, for example.

Of course, fingerprints have been used to verify identity since they were pressed into clay tablets in ancient Babylon to “sign” business transactions. If you are a science fiction fan, you may remember the scene in Steven Spielberg's futuristic "Minority Report," when Tom Cruise's character is shown advertising customized to his likes, after his face is scanned.

As digital payments become common, and we rely on numerous digital devices to shop, biometric identification can help us seamlessly shop online and offline, while providing greater security. And with the rise in fraud and identity theft in recent years, fraud-proof ways to identify ourselves are certainly needed. To push us from static passwords to better security, newer smartphones from Apple, Samsung, and other manufacturers now include fingerprint readers and other biometric technologies.

MasterCard, one of the payment industry leaders, is on a mission to replace passwords with more convenient, secure methods like biometrics. A poll of nearly 10,000 consumers in 17 markets, commissioned by MasterCard, confirms that passwords are a pain: More than half of people forget crucial passwords more than once a week, and about a third of online purchases are abandoned by consumers at checkout because they can’t remember their password.

Along with MasterCard, we say “thumbs up” to biometrics, and we expect you will soon be able to speed through checkout with the blink of an eye.

Agenda has considerable experience helping financial institutions, merchants, and consumers understand the value of safe, smart payments technologies.