Concerns around data hacking and identity theft via biometrics are on the rise, report says

A Capterra study of 756 Canadians has revealed that the use of biometric data has risen among consumers since the start of the pandemic, creating concerns about the security of their personal data.

The report shows that 50 per cent of respondents cite potential identity theft as a concern of using biometric technologies. Additional concerns include the misuse of respondents’ personal data (49 per cent), and a reduction of privacy (45 per cent).

Biometric technology enables people to be identified based on certain physical or behavioural characteristics, similar to the way people can be identified on sight by their physical appearance. 

Biometric authentication can be used to protect data and stop fraud, as well as other cybercrime, by requiring users to validate their identity using personal characteristics. For example, biometric data, such as facial appearance or retina scans, can be highly distinctive and hard to forge. 

Because biometric data is hard to forge, this authentication method has been used by government agencies for passport control and permit issuance. The private sector has also started implementing this technology, one example being smartphone fingerprint scans used to unlock a phone.

Of the Canadian consumers surveyed, 55 per cent are regularly using their fingerprints as an identification method and 32 per cent also often use facial recognition methods, usually when using smartphones. Five per cent use hand scans, 10 per cent use voice-based biometrics and 5 per cent have used iris scans. The survey also revealed that 31 per cent of respondents don’t use any biometric identifiers mentioned in the Capterra survey.

According to the report, technology companies have also used biometric-reading capabilities on other devices. For example, Windows Hello’s facial recognition is now available across many Windows computers and tablets.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the usage of biometric technology. The report revealed that 14 per cent of biometric users said they started using facial recognition after the pandemic started. Fourteen per cent also said they began using fingerprint scanning since the pandemic started, indicating that biometric technology could continue to grow. 

However, many Canadians are not in favour of processes that require personal information to be used online. Just under half of respondents have never used a digital health passport, and 14 per cent said they did not want to use apps to access their vaccination status due to concerns about how their data would be protected. 

The rise of cyber attacks have also heightened, raising concerns of the security of personal information being stored online. For example, COVID-19 has seen some data-keeping institutions, such as hospitals, at risk of cyber attacks. Just over 60 per cent of respondents say they are more concerned about their personal data being hacked since the pandemic began. 

While many of the survey respondents feel comfortable sharing personal information like their name, birthday, and address with private companies, comfort levels significantly lowered when it comes to sharing their biometric data, and document images such as scans of driver’s licences, with private companies, with just 22 per cent of consumers feeling comfortable in these scenarios.

Some of Canadians’ concerns regarding biometric data are fuelled by its use by police using Clearview AI, which was found to violate privacy protections, the report revealed, .

For other countries such as France and Brazil, where the same survey was conducted, data breaches are the main concern in regards to biometric technology.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Samira Balsara
Samira Balsara
Samira is a writer for IT World Canada. She is currently pursuing a journalism degree at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly known as Ryerson) and hopes to become a news anchor or write journalistic profiles. You can email her at [email protected]

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