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NordVPN survey: Half of the US uses biometric authentication daily

If you unlock your phone by holding it up to your face or pressing your thumb to a fingerprint scanner at the bottom of the screen – you’re using biometric authentication. This high-tech recognition method is quick and easy, but do people in the US trust and use it? Let’s take a look at the results of NordVPN’s survey to find out the answer to these and other questions.

NordVPN survey: Half of the US uses biometric authentication daily

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

The survey and key takeaways

For our survey, we interviewed 1,008 people in the US and 1,010 people in the UK from different age groups – Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and baby boomers. Our goal was to find out how people feel about biometric authentication methods (fingerprint, face, and eye scanning) and what their habits are of using them.

We were also interested in the usage of other smart technologies, so we asked users from the US and the UK about their QR scanning habits and another topic as well – AI chatbot usage.

What is biometric authentication?

The first topic of the survey was biometric authentication – using your biometric data to authenticate your identity and gain access to a device or service. Your unique physical features are difficult to replicate, making biometric authentication a great extra layer to add to your passwords and PINs for multi-factor authentication.

Facial recognition and fingerprint scanning are among the most common types of biometric authentication used on smartphones, computers, and apps. Some smart devices also come with voice recognition and iris scanning technology. But is biometric authentication popular in the US, and who uses it the most? Let’s find out!

Only a quarter in favor of biometrics

NordVPN researchers found out that only a quarter of respondents in the US (25%) and the UK (27%) believe that biometrics help keep their data more secure. The percentage of people opposed to the idea of biometric authentication taking over passwords is a little smaller though – 21% in the US and 19% in the UK.

Research results: UK vs. USA

The distrust in biometrics might be due to the fact that 20% of respondents in the US and 18% in the UK expressed doubt about companies keeping their biometric data secure. These people worry that criminals could gain access to their biometric data.

Percentage of distrust: UK vs. USA

US survey results

With the trust level in biometric technologies low among US users, 50% of US respondents still use at least one biometric technology (fingerprint, face, or eye scan) daily. This just goes to show that biometric authentication has become a daily habit for half of users.

Still, around 15% of respondents said that they never use biometrics on their devices because they don’t trust the technology.

Fingerprint, face, and eye scanning

In the US, one third (32%) of all respondents use fingerprint scanning daily, making it the preferred biometric authentication technology. Up to 21% of respondents prefer to use fingerprint scans over passwords on mobile apps, yet the same number of people don’t like the idea of using biometrics instead of passwords. This might be due to the general distrust in biometric technologies and the worries whether companies can keep users’ biometric data safe.

Face scanning is not that far behind fingerprints in popularity – 30% of respondents use face scanning technology on a daily basis. Eye scanning is a runner up with only 9% of people using it every day.

The preference to sign in to social media via face or eye scans is relatively low in the US – only 12% would want to have their face scanned to sign in on social media, and merely 7% would prefer to have their eyes scanned for the same purpose. And 29% said they don’t use any biometric technology.

On board with QR codes

QR codes are very popular with US users – over 70% of respondents said they use this technology with a certain frequency. More than half of the respondents who use QR code technology say that they use their camera to simply scan the QR code, and more than a quarter have downloaded an app for QR scanning.

More than a quarter of QR technology users check a QR code before scanning it. This level of caution is valid because 5% of QR technology users have experienced a QR code scam compromising their personal data, while 15% of respondents, predominantly freelancers, worry about QR scams.

Frustration with AI chatbots

Nearly 15% of US respondents say that they are frustrated when companies use AI chatbots for their customer support. This frustration could be boiled down to several reasons – limitations of AI chatbots, users’ experience with technologies, or their preference to receive help from another human.

In the US, daily AI chatbot users account for only 10%, while 48% of all respondents don’t use AI chatbots at all. Significantly more men (compared to women) use AI chatbots daily. Overall, more women than men don’t ever use AI chatbots at all.

There is anxiety surrounding the AI chatbot topic. One third of chatbot users worry that AI is developing too quickly and 6% say they have experienced an AI scam. No wonder one-fifth of all respondents are trying to educate themselves on AI.

One-tenth of all respondents use AI chatbots regularly for some assistance in their personal time. A similar percentage of respondents say they use AI chatbots for work purposes.

App usage

Many apps offer biometric authentication measures for their users, which makes the app usage topic relevant for our research, especially in terms of personal data security. In the US, almost half (46%) of the all respondents download apps only from an official marketplace (such as Play Store or App Store), keeping themselves safe from malicious apps.

Downloading apps from official stores is the main way to avoid malicious and fake apps, but checking user reviews before downloading is still advisable. According to our survey results, one-third of all respondents read user reviews of apps before downloading them, and half as many say that they check how many downloads an app has before downloading it.

One-fifth of all respondents also check permissions and data collection on an app before downloading it, and a quarter believes that official app stores include only safe apps to download. Almost one-third of all respondents say that they have downloaded apps that they never use.

Unfortunately, the overall percentage of users who practice app security tips (checking user reviews, checking the number of downloads, and reviewing permissions and data collection rules) is still relatively low, suggesting poor cybersecurity awareness.

Who uses biometric technologies the most?

Gen Z and Millennials use biometrics technologies (fingerprint, face, and eye scanning) most often. There is also a correlation between higher income and more frequent use of biometric authentication. Freelancers, hired workers, and people with higher income also tend to use biometrics in addition to passwords for two-factor authentication.

Gen Z and Millennials, business owners, freelancers, and people with higher income use QR codes on a daily basis significantly more. Members of these two age groups also scan QR codes to access Wi-Fi and prefer to use a QR code to a physical menu in a restaurant more often than other groups.

But let’s look at the highlights for each age group.

Gen Z (18-26 y.o.)

Gen Z shows significantly higher preference in having their eyes scanned to sign in on social media. They are also cautious who they share their biometric data with. They’ve also experienced more AI scams so they are cautious about sharing sensitive information with artificial intelligence systems. Gen Z would benefit from extending this caution to apps because they download applications from unofficial stores more often than other age groups.

Gen Z and respondents who identified as business owners, freelancers, students as well as people with higher income and children use AI chatbots significantly more. Gen Z uses it more extensively than others in their free time, as a tool at school or university, and for generating images.

Millennials (27-42 y.o.)

Millennials have the strongest belief that biometrics help keep their data secure compared to other age groups – nearly one third upholds this belief. A quarter of the respondents in the Millennials age group use biometric authentication in addition to passwords for two-factor authentication.

Millennials, business owners, and hired workers significantly use AI chatbots more for work. However, this age group and students worry that AI will replace their job significantly more than others.

Gen X (43-58 y.o.)

Less than a quarter of respondents from the Gen X group believe that biometrics can help to keep their data more secure. The same percentage of respondents prefer fingerprint scans to passwords on mobile apps and only a third of them use fingerprint scanning daily.

Face and eye scanning technologies are even less popular among Gen X. Up to 75% of respondents don’t use eye scanning and half of them never use AI chatbots.

Baby boomers (59-77 y.o.)

In the US, baby boomers show the highest skepticism towards biometrics – nearly one third of them don’t like the idea of biometrics replacing passwords, with a similar percentage worried about whether companies can keep their biometric data safe.

Baby boomers use biometric authentication significantly less than other age groups. However, 42% use fingerprint scanning, 30% use face scanning, and 17% use eye scan technologies with certain frequency, though rarely compared to other groups.

Compared to other age groups, baby boomers set their apps to install updates automatically significantly less often. Also, people aged 60 and over do not use AI chatbots at all in their work.

How to protect your biometric data

Your biometric data is probably the most personal data about you, so it’s important to keep it private, especially if you’re using it for authentication purposes. We’ve got some tips on how you can protect it:

  • Use multi-factor authentication. MFA adds security to your devices and accounts by using several verification methods: something you know (a password or PIN), something you have (a mobile device), and something you are (biometrics). Even if an attacker breaches one layer, they will be stopped by another one, keeping your personal data safe.
  • Use malware-protection tools. Our NordVPN app has an integrated Threat Protection feature that blocks access to malicious websites even if the QR code contains a link to a harmful page. It also detects vulnerable apps on your computer so you can take immediate action to improve your data privacy.
  • Be mindful about QR codes. Don’t scan QR codes in public places or in unsolicited emails. Only scan a QR code in professional and official settings, for example, a QR inside a restaurant which will take you to the online menu. You can also use NordVPN’s Threat Protection or a reliable QR code scanning app that checks URLs before opening them.
  • Buy apps only from official app stores. By purchasing apps that have not been vetted by Apple or Google, you are risking downloading harmful software that might steal your data or infect your device with malware.
  • Keep your software updated. Software updates patch up security vulnerabilities, so update your device’s and apps’ software regularly or simply turn on automatic updates.

To get the best results with biometric data, follow these tips to keep it secure and add biometrics as a supplementary authentication measure to better protect your devices and accounts.

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