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Satisfying customer convenience without sacrificing data security

For decades, innovation in consumer technology has revolved around the need for greater convenience. Through automation and simplification, the emphasis has been on making tasks and processes easier for end users.

But now that we’ve reached a point where convenience is a reality in many tech product categories, it’s become increasingly evident that we need better security. Do we turn back or continue pressing forward? Herein lies the friction.

Increased security compromises convenience, while increased convenience often compromises security. How can we develop solutions that prioritize both without creating frustrations for the end user? Is it even possible? These are questions we must explore in order to promote positive growth and innovation within this space.

Security vs. Convenience

Fifteen years ago, the average consumer was focused on convenience over everything. They wanted the ability to log in and use technology without clearing a bunch of hurdles. Today, consumers are aware of the dangers of cybersecurity attacks and hacks – propelled by massive hacks of major corporations such as Equifax, Facebook, and Target – and no longer seek out convenience at all costs. Instead, they’re willing to turn back the clock on convenience if it means less risk.

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Girl pays to shop using mobile phone. NFC - Near field Communication. Mobile payment.

According to a study by IBM, 74 percent of consumers say they’d prefer to use additional security features like extra passwords, two-factor authentication, and additional steps for added protection if it means lower risk. And that’s all fine and dandy when you read it in an industry white paper, but what does this look like in real-life?

The average person finds it frustrating when he has to jump through a bunch of hoops just to log into an account. It’s even more infuriating when a person is required to develop a complex password and she continues to forget it over and over again. It’s a major turnoff and one that pushes people away from brands. But what choice is there?

Stuck in the Middle

“To be honest, security is inconvenient. There is no other way to describe it,” InMyArea.com explains. “We must all make the decision about how much security we are willing to deal with despite the inconvenience it can become.”

The problem is that today’s consumers want the best of both worlds. They expect airtight security, but aren’t willing to jump through the extra steps that are required to access this level of security. And when tech companies come out with convenient security solutions, they worry about giving up the personal information that’s required to make them function properly.

This point of friction is, perhaps, no more evident than in airports. In a post-9/11 world, people understand the need for security and want thorough measures in place. Yet at the same time, they aren’t always willing to fully embrace the innovations that are implemented.

One of these new innovations is a solution called Clear. This biometric technology allows people to scan their fingerprints or use facial recognition in place of physical IDs to speed up security lines. It’s exponentially faster than the normal way of doing things, but it comes with a snag: Many people aren’t comfortable with having their fingerprints and faces on file.

“You can’t change your fingerprint, or your iris, or your face, the way you can change your social security number or phone number, once it’s compromised,” says Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Intimate data like this is a massive target for hackers and cybercriminals. So even with enhanced security comes the risk for other security issues. The tension is profound. And whether people want to hear it or not, there is no perfect solution. There’s always going to be some degree of give and take. Either we compromise on security or we compromise on convenience. And even when advanced security is pursued, there’s always the risk that it could lead to greater privacy issues. That’s just where we are.

For tech companies, it’s less about finding a perfect solution that’s convenient for the user and airtight on the security front. Instead, the future lies in better messaging and communication. Users need to understand the 'why' behind advanced security methods. They need to grasp why these methods require additional steps and take extra time. And the onus is on the tech companies to provide the necessary education.

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