With security of any sort, its difficult to achieve a balance between achieving the right level of security and convenience or perhaps better put, the least possible disruption for customers. Take airport security for example, the implementation of tighter security measures to thwart terrorism has created significant frustrations, costs and inefficiencies. Relative to the consequences though of a breach, this is mostly tolerated.

So – perhaps the first issue to address is whether both parties to any secured transaction have the same view of the extent of risk and consequences thereof. In some business relationships, the service provider may have a much better insight into the nature and probability of risk. If this is the case, there’s obviously a need to educate and inform customers so that a similar and mutually held view of the likelihood and impact of risk is shared.  This will help to avoid a mismatch and potential drop off in customer satisfaction.

Now that biometrics are becoming mainstream, there is the potential to fundamentally change the traditional equation of higher security = higher hassle. Biometrics are versatile and intuitive and, if set up correctly, biometric enabled solutions should provide an easier experience. There’s also the very important consideration that the person being verified doesn’t have to remember anything. They are their biometrics!

An essential part of simplification though is in building more intelligence into solutions. In order to provide the right balance between usability and security, the solution needs to seamlessly switch to higher levels of rigor when needed. This step-up (and step-down) capability automatically helps the get the balance right. Within this, significant attention needs to be provided to design. If the solution design has considered the right kinds of prompts so that users understand what to do when and why, this helps to mitigate a lot of the potential frustration.

Introducing what the consumer regards as friction in order to improve security in an online retail transaction is likely to have a bigger negative impact than similar friction in a banking transaction. In fact, experiments in ticketing and events have shown that introducing friction into the ticket purchase in order to reduce touting and improve security has not negatively impacted on consumers’ purchasing decisions. One way of looking at it is that if an individual wants a ticket badly enough, they don’t mind a small amount of additional effort in the purchase process.


It’s worth considering one practical example of achieving the right balance here. As the biometrics industry moves forward and becomes ubiquitous in our lives, the successful providers will be those that leverage emerging technologies to simultaneously improve security while improving usability and convenience. It is more than possible that by doing so, these organisations will find the way to remove the either/or thinking and practice that has prevailed on the topic.