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Security versus convenience: the battle continues

by Leanna Appleby , 30.09.2013

We all know that worldwide smartphone penetration is growing rapidly. Just under one third of mobile users own smartphones; analysts expect this to approach half by 2017. However, we also know that consumers’ security and privacy concerns around personal data are rising. According to a recent survey of 2000 UK consumers, 46% of those questioned suspect that there are high level security breaches at financial institutions, and 40% suspect similar breaches at mobile phone companies. As technology becomes more advanced, and as consumers provide more personal data, security and privacy become even more important.

However, as smartphone adoption increases, the need for convenience and ease of use continues to be a key priority. It is now the norm for consumers to have everything at their fingertips, whether it be email, games, photos or information. We are a generation accustomed to having instant access to everything through smartphones or other mobile devices.

Finding the balance

For several years now, brands have been working towards meeting consumer needs for ease of use and convenience, whilst providing security and privacy reassurance.  However, finding this balance is tricky. Offering consumers a product that is too easy or too convenient, particularly relating to personal or financial data, can often trigger concerns such as: ‘if it is too easy, then anyone can access it’. However, if it is too complex and too secure, consumers will be put off and avoid using the product or service completely. In short, what has become apparent over recent years is that brands are struggling to achieve the optimum balance.

Security and privacy are hot topics. The numerous stories in the press about hacking, hidden contract clauses and the selling of consumer data, to name but a few, have sent consumers’ security concerns spiralling to an all-time high. In July 2013 it was reported that 88% of those who shop using their mobile devices have reported negative experiences. Yet according to the same report, more than half of consumers say they would use their mobile wallets if their security concerns were addressed. Brands are facing an uphill battle to do just that.

With all these security concerns, consumers are struggling to completely trust brands with their personal data, and this is a significant barrier which prevents them fully embracing services which store personal data and financial data. eMarketer has cut its estimated growth for proximity mobile payments in half due to the adoption issues with mobile wallet initiatives, a sign that perhaps this slower take up is due to increasing security concerns.

Can technology help?

PayPal’s new face verification system could be a step in the right direction to achieving that balance. Designed to enable consumers to pay for their goods in the store without the need for a wallet, the service works via an app which is installed on the consumers’ smartphone and which can be linked to the store’s systems when the consumer ‘checks in’ – a similar feature is used by Facebook. This could potentially give consumers the reassurance they need – their data is secure, and it is only released and accepted after facial verification.

Facebook has also launched a new service, which looks like it is attempting to compete with PayPal. It plans to offer a service to streamline the checkout process when consumers shop for goods online. It is designed to save users from entering their credit or debit card details each time they make a purchase by using a mobile app linked to their Facebook account. It is another tool which offers convenience to the consumer, but it is enough to reassure those security concerns?

Apple is another brand which appears to be working hard to achieve the harmonious balance between ease of use and security. Alongside its new fingerprint scanning technology with the iPhone 5s, it has recently filed a patent for an electronic type of device that may enable users to confirm or decline a payment transaction, which suggests that it too may be looking into ways of offering consumers convenience whilst, at the same time, assuaging their security concerns.

Motorola has also attempted to increase security reassurance and still provide convenience for consumers. A recently announced device, the Motorola Skip, enables consumers to securely lock and unlock it using a hardware based method. Skip is a small thumb-sized clip, which is designed to pair with your smartphone, and is used to securely unlock or lock your phone without the need to enter a PIN. The aim is to remove the hassle of entering a secure PIN or pattern each time you want to use your smartphone, whilst still providing reassurance that the device is secure.

Slow but steady progress

Security and privacy reassurance will always be high on the agenda for both brands and consumers; and brands will continue to address this fundamental consumer need. However, finding the perfect balance between convenience and security will be tough, undoubtedly requiring much innovative development along the way. Whether that balance will ever truly be reached is questionable; however, as technology progresses and brands dig deeper into understanding consumer needs, we can be sure that we are heading in the right direction, albeit, perhaps, more slowly than everyone would like.

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