Facial recognition technology, using CCTV, has been one of the more exciting innovations in the retail space in recent years.

Databases with the faces of known ‘baddies’ are increasingly available to stores.

In online retail however, putting a face or other biometric details to a customer raises issues of friction, and retailers are hesitant to take advantage of the technology. But consumers may start to ask for it.

Research commissioned by Equifax, the consumer and business insight expert, and conducted by YouGov in the UK has found that 56% of people online would prefer to use a biometric security method over traditional options like passwords to log into their financial accounts online. And Equifax believes the technology already makes sense for some high value retail transactions as well.

The online survey found that a third of people would prefer to use fingerprint recognition as a security method to access their accounts. A further 13% would like to use iris scanners, 7% facial recognition, and 3% voice recognition.

Only 19% of people cited passwords as their favoured security method and just 13% selected memorable questions, indicating that consumers are suffering from password fatigue and want the convenience that biometrics can offer.

John Marsden, Head of ID and Fraud at Equifax, said: “With major data breaches and hacking scandals regularly making the headlines, people are losing trust in the protection passwords can offer.

“Mobile banking is the first choice for many consumers, and as mobile technology continues to evolve, banks and other financial providers must address the disparity between consumer demand for biometric security and its availability. Biometrics offer consumers the combined advantage of security and convenience and are a great solution to password fatigue.”

Equifax has launched a bespoke Document Verifier solution to provide faster identity authentication for financial product applications using facial recognition.

The solution can verify whether an applicant is genuine in a matter of seconds by comparing a live image of the applicant with a photograph of their passport or driving licence, both taken on a smartphone or webcam enabled device. The automated technology can recognise potential tampering or anomalies on official documents from over 200 countries. It also employs enhanced ‘liveness’ detection which detects even the slightest movement when the applicant is taking a photo of their face, ensuring fraudsters are unable to create a match using a static image of an applicant.

Currently Equifax offers the service for customer on-boarding requirements for mortgages, credit cards, utilities and telcos. It could also be appropriate for high value retail transactions, says Marsden.

“If someone is buying a watch online for £5,000”, he says, “that’s a huge risk transaction. If the retailer has any doubts, asking the purchaser to show their face and document would be justified.”

Another opportunity for retailers to use the technology would be when setting up online accounts, says Marsden.

“Once a retailer has tied an identity to a device, for example, that can then be authenticated each time with a simple selfie or thumb print, and bang, you’re in – no password, no friction.”

Marsden admits that tying identity to a device is not a foolproof authentification method, but he sees it gaining increasing acceptance.

The Document Verifier solution could be a part of that development, he suggests.

“It supports consumers’ preference for convenience, and the solution can be tailored to different business strategies for fraud prevention and risk management.”