Facial Recognition Debate Gathers Steam Despite Popularity Among Gen Z Consumers

facial recognition tech used on young man

As the use of facial recognition software continues to expand around the world, concerns about privacy and human rights violations have reignited the debate surrounding this technology.

On Friday (Oct. 6), a bipartisan group of 65 British lawmakers called for an immediate ban on live facial recognition surveillance on U.K. streets by both the police and private companies, Reuters reported.

The use of the technology in the United Kingdom has faced consistent criticism from organizations advocating for civil liberties, including Amnesty International, and faces a proposed ban in the European Union under the EU’s landmark artificial intelligence (AI) regulation.

On one hand, law enforcement officials have expressed optimism about the transformative potential of facial recognition technology in criminal investigations, but privacy advocates are concerned about privacy, human rights and the lack of sufficient regulation.

The U.K.’s call for a ban on facial recognition comes at a time when other governments are taking steps to address concerns about biometrics. For example, China’s Cyberspace Administration (CAC) has introduced draft regulations calling for limits on facial recognition, proposing instead the use of non-biometric means to identify people.

“The use of face recognition technology to process face information shall obtain the individual’s individual consent or obtain written consent in accordance with the law,” the proposal noted, per an Aug. 8 PYMNTS report. “If there are non-biometric verification technologies for achieving a similar purpose or business requirements, those non-biometric verification methods should be preferred.”

In May, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a policy statement warning that the technology could lead to discrimination and violations of privacy.

“In recent years, biometric surveillance has grown more sophisticated and pervasive, posing new threats to privacy and civil rights,” Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said. “Today’s policy statement makes clear that companies must comply with the law regardless of the technology they are using.”

Young Consumers Drive Biometric Adoption

Meanwhile, most U.S. consumers seem unfazed by the intensifying debate surrounding AI facial recognition and continue to embrace biometrics tools as their most preferred way to authenticate payments.

graphic, biometric authentication

In fact, out of 60% of consumers who completed online purchases in a given period, 51% used biometric authentication to validate their transactions, eliminating the need to remember passwords or enter credit card information.

This is one of the key findings in “Tracking the Digital Payments Takeover: Biometric Authentication in the Age of Mobile,” a PYMNTS Intelligence and AWS collaboration.

The study also reveals that facial recognition and fingerprint scans are the most popular biometric methods, with approximately 28% and 49% of consumers, respectively, adopting them. Moreover, nearly 60% of facial recognition users use the method more than once weekly.

Another interesting finding from the research is the contrast in biometric authentication adoption across different generations. While 84% of baby boomers and seniors have not used biometric authentication methods in the past 30 days, three out of four Gen Z and millennial consumers have incorporated biometrics into their routines.

Among these younger generations, facial recognition is particularly popular among Gen Z consumers (51%) while millennials are more likely to prefer fingerprint scans, with 42.1% using them.

Ultimately, the widespread adoption of biometric authentication tools by consumers signals a shift toward more convenient and secure payment methods. However, the balance between convenience and safeguarding individual rights and data will be a critical point of discussion in the evolving landscape of digital payments and biometrics.

The coming years will likely bring further developments and changes as technology advances and society grapples with the implications of these innovations.