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Gen Z: The Biometric Generation

By Jonathan Vaux, Executive Director of Innovation Partnerships • Visa Europe

January 20, 2015

“I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:

  1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works
  2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career out of it
  3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things”

– Douglas Adams

The author of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy had it about right when he said this. For Generation Z – those now aged around 16-24 – passwords are a natural part of the way the world works. Whether for smartphones, social media accounts, or payment cards, Generation Z has grown up with having numerous logins and passwords to get by in their everyday lives.

However, research from Visa Europe suggests that, even for this generation, it has started to feel like an unnecessary burden having to remember and key in a plethora of passwords for a multitude of mediums.

In fact, this generation’s approach to PINs and passwords is placing them at greater risk of data or financial compromise. In our survey, one third of respondents from Generation Z use only a single password for all their logins. The group is also more liberal in sharing their security information than older generations:

  • A third have shared their debit or credit card PIN number with someone, versus 23% of all respondents.
  • 32% have shared their smartphone password, versus 10% of all respondents.
  • 22% have shared their internet banking password, versus 7% of all respondents

Having already had their first taste of biometric security through facial recognition at airports and fingerprint scanning on the latest smartphone devices, Generation Z is keen to see biometric security become available to replace PINs and passwords.

Three-quarters (76%) would feel comfortable making a payment using biometric security and 69% believe this will make their lives faster and easier. As products come online with these features, more than half of this group believes passwords and PINs will either disappear or become non-essential by the end of the decade.

Of the new authentication methods available to consumers, Generation Z is most keen on fingerprint scanning. Nearly 70% of 16-24 year olds say they want to use this method rather than passwords by 2020. Other methods interest this generation such as retina scans (39%) and facial recognition (27%),though voice recognition (12%),fast DNA samples (15%) and implanted chips (16%) remain less popular at present.

For banks and product providers this means two challenges. Firstly, to continue and quicken the pace of development on biometrics to answer this demand from Generation Z. Secondly, to continue to evaluate the increasing range of authentication options to ensure customer convenience and security as payment increasingly becomes embedded into a range of applications.

In my next post we will explore the different viewpoints of Generation Y (aged 25-34) and explore the importance of education and awareness.

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