Mobile Users Expect Always-On Face Recognition And Smart Profiles, Survey Finds

A couple of weeks ago, we dared you to come forward and speak your mind. Did you trust face recognition on your mobile phone and, if not, what should happen so you left your fears behind? The survey answers were real eye-openers. An impressive 42% of respondents said automated, smart profiles would make their experience more secure, with 32% believing an always-on face recognition system would make accessing their data more difficult if their phones were stolen. 

Asked how much they trusted face recognition, on a scale of 1-10, the survey respondents answered “7”, making us believe they were mostly confident in this biometric measure. As questions piled up though, respondents had a slight change of heart. They were unsure whether they’d use face recognition to unlock bank accounts and make payments (remaining neutral).

However, instead of rejecting the technology completely, users appeared open to various ways of improving their experience. Turns out, 55% thought that an always-on feature would decrease the chances of somebody accessing their data, after stealing their phone. A big percentage of respondents (62%) believed a better, more secure experience would happen if their devices automatically loaded user profiles depending on the current device user.

Phone makers have not offered these features yet, but they are worth looking into.

Otherwise, users’ insecurities seem to stem from a place of confusion. Few companies spend the time and resources to educate mobile users about technical terms like “liveness detection”, “anti-spoofing” and how the technology actually works. 52% of the users did not know what anti-spoofing is, which is troubling considering many flagships retail with face recognition aboard. 

Another 50% of respondents were not sure what “liveness detection” is, almost 20% of respondents believing it was about analyzing the owner’s facial features and blocking the device if they were coerced to unlock it. In fact, liveness detection is about blocking the access to the device if someone is trying to use a picture of the owner to unlock it (whether it is still or video).

Moreover, 43% of respondents were under the impression that their faces are stored as a 3D scan (when the phone has dual camera), while 16% believed that they’re saved as pictures in a hidden location on the smartphones’ main drive. 

Scandals like Cambridge Analytica have certainly left an impression on users. Many are weary of companies’ intentions regarding user data usage. 39% of those surveyed feared that, by using face recognition, their data could be used by OEMs for other purposes.

In order to have some peace of mind, the majority (52%) believed that encryption is needed so nobody else can access the data. Keeping the data locally, as opposed to in the cloud, is something 37% of them would also appreciate.

All in all, it appears that most mobile users are ready to use face recognition when it comes to unlocking their phones, but don’t trust it enough to handle financial affairs. That wariness is, in part, caused by misunderstandings related to technical terms and functionality and, in part, by a lack of trust in institutions and companies.

Device makers could bridge this gap by raising awareness around technical processes (and, in this way, earning users’ trust). Also, working with encryption, on the edge, would give users the transparency they crave. It remains to be seen how many will have the courage to do so.

*The survey polled 1,089 people between May 18 – June 8, with 68% male respondents and 62% having between 18-34 years old. It wasn’t a short one – at 24 questions – so thank you all for participating!

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