Changes in the privacy landscape through the pandemic

The pandemic has turned the way businesses operate upside down. In the rush to keep the lights on, businesses pivoted online to keep sales up and maintain customer services. But at what cost?

privacy landscape pandemic

Businesses in this landscape are increasingly trading privacy and security for convenience. And the consequences of such a dramatic pivot have been felt harder on the end user than ever before – with more security decisions landing on the often ill-equipped and misinformed consumer.

Recent Callsign research that polled 1,000 U.S. respondents confirms that this shift has not gone unnoticed by consumers. 26% of those surveyed feel their privacy concerns have increased over the pandemic because they don’t know what data is being collected about them, and 26% say it’s because they’ve shared more data about themselves online as they access services online.

The state of fraud and security

With the business world online – global fraud is on the upswing. In its latest quarterly analysis of global online fraud trends, global information and insights company TransUnion found that since the COVID-19 pandemic began, fraudster threats against businesses have increased by 46%. To counter this, many have been looking to the security industry for the answer. However, traditional security methods like passwords and one-time passcodes have become problematic since they’ve become a target for malicious actors.

Consumers know that their passwords are not secure enough but due to protections that their credit card companies or banks offer, they don’t do anything about it. The same research found that only 27% of consumers claimed they were confident in the security of their passwords, whilst 24% wait for prompts by businesses to change them.

With consumers concerned about privacy and businesses concerned about authenticating genuine users, it is no surprise that the state of digital trust online is weaker now than it has been previously. As a result, the identification and verification of both genuine businesses and consumers is more important than ever.

Turning to technology

It’s clear that the solution to put consumer minds at ease, while protecting business’ integrity, needs to become simpler and more secure. One of these solutions is in technology, specifically biometric technology.

In the last ten years, biometric technology has rapidly evolved from a relative niche to a mainstream solution. There are two distinct types of these biometric technologies. The first is static biometrics, where businesses use physical identifiers to authenticate users (e.g., fingerprints, face, voice, or even palmprints). There’s also behavioral biometrics, where technologies can assess unique dynamic inputs of consumers, such as their location, the way that they type, swipe on a screen, or use their mouse.

To keep privacy at the heart for concerned consumers, businesses need to navigate biometrics considerately. When it comes to the more well-known static biometrics, the whole entire consumer base must be considered carefully. This is because static biometrics are not privacy-preserving, since they often rely on giving a consumer’s physical attributes (photo, fingerprint etc.) over to third parties like Facebook or Google to compare and authenticate users.

In addition, there are also issues when it comes to customers with Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. Reports find that these systems negatively affect this customer demographic, as they’re not yet trained without inherent biases.

Behavioral biometrics, on the other hand, are fine-tuned to the individual from the outset, learning and adapting with the consumer as the business relationship progresses. Turning to these behavioral biometric technologies can add levels of security which help people to sleep easier at night.

Most importantly – and unlike many other timely or onerous authentication steps such as opening another authenticator app or sharing a one-time passcode – they don’t add time-consuming steps for the consumer. Not only is added time like this detrimental to users to access products and services, for businesses such as retailers it can negatively affect their success in trying to make a sale with each and every second of friction that they add.

Digital Identification is an important part of our online lives, but it’s currently broken. To stop escalating levels of fraud, behavioral biometric technologies will help the whole ecosystem become more transparent in a privacy-conscious way. When it comes to businesses, they’ll be able to quickly identify real customers online and people will be able to prove themselves as legitimate, without carrying the burden of onerous and time-consuming identity checks.

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