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Mastercard, Oxford Plan Helps Banks Breathe Life into Biometrics

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With increasing global smartphone penetration and a willing consumer base, financial institutions recognize the potential of biometrics to offer more convenience and security to their customers—but a lack of familiarity with the still-new technology among top banking brass remains a significant barrier to adoption, a new report from Mastercard and Oxford University found.

To help close the knowledge gap, the payments network and the Oxford Department of Computer Science have created a five-factor framework, which they say will help banks “bring biometrics to life.”

The Mastercard-Oxford report is based on two separate studies: one gauging consumers’ attitudes toward adopting biometrics for payments authorization; the other canvassing a targeted group of financial services professionals. The consumer study found widespread willingness to use biometrics authentication, with 90 percent of respondents saying they were open to adopting biometrics-based authentication to replace passwords. Meanwhile, global sales of smartphones are expected to reach $400 billion by next year—meaning more consumers around the world will have access to a key tool that makes biometric authentication possible.

However, the executive survey showed that just 36 percent of bank leadership felt familiar enough with biometrics to deliver the technology to their customers. To fix that disconnect, the report outlined five elements executives should focus on with it comes to devising biometric authentication products: performance, usability, interoperability, security and privacy. While some of those factors are more visible to the consumer than others, long-term success for a bank’s biometrics efforts requires all factors to be valued equally, Mastercard said.

Cooperation among stakeholders also is necessary to establishing biometrics at large, according to Mastercard. “This framework is fundamental to accelerating the deployment of mobile biometrics for consumers and industry alike, but collaboration is key,” Ajay Bhalla, president, global enterprise risk & security, Mastercard, said in a blog post announcing the framework. “We can only achieve this if industry, academia, governments and technology vendors understand and contribute to the evolution of the five-factor framework for mobile biometrics.”

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