Younger consumers – especially Gen Z – value the promise of simplified experiences that digital identities bring
The Future of Identity report from the Entrust Cybersecurity Institute explores global consumers’ attitudes toward three emerging identity topics: passwordless authentication, hybrid identities, and ownership over personally identifiable information.
Across geographies, consumers are focused on their digital and hybrid identities, and the myriad ways new technologies shape our relationships to the world around us. However, when we took a closer look at our findings, we noticed key differences among generations. The youngest consumers we surveyed are digital natives aged 18, while the oldest are aged 75. Considering the vast differences in upbringing and cultural attitudes each generation has in relation to technology, these diverse (and at times, conflicting) opinions make sense.
Younger generations (especially Gen Z) value seamless, technology-driven identity credentials and solutions. They aren’t opposed to online identity verification to simplify a digital experience that requires it − in fact, they largely prioritize convenience above control. By contrast, older generations (especially baby boomers) desire traditional authentication experiences and physical identity credentials, citing security concerns with digital solutions as a main deterrent.
What follows is a deeper look at the survey findings as it relates to these generational differences. If you’re not up to speed on standard definitions of each generation, check out this resource from Beresford Research before reading on.
1. Gen Z gravitates toward frictionless, passwordless login experiences
This familiarity with alternative authentication methods may explain why Gen Zers and millennials are the most likely to trust passwordless login methods. When we asked respondents which authentication methods they thought were more secure than passwords, younger generations were more likely to select multiple methods of authentication. For example, Gen Z respondents are twice as likely to believe “signing in through another account” (i.e., Google or Facebook) is more secure (19%) than baby boomers are (9%).
Despite differences among lower-ranked responses, all generations agree biometric-enabled authentication solutions are now the most secure login option. Gen Z was the only generation to perceive facial recognition as most secure, while baby boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials ranked fingerprint scans higher.
|Percentage of respondents who believe the following authentication methods are more secure than passwords|
|4- or 6-digit PIN codes||Facial recognition||Fingerprint scan||Signing in through another account||Device recognition||SMS one-time passcode||Passwords are the most secure|
Younger generations not only view biometric-enabled authentication more favorably, they’re also more likely to take advantage of this authentication method compared to older generations. When given the option of biometrics or a password, 73% of Gen Z, 67% of millennials, and 54% of Gen X will use biometrics always or often, compared to just a third (32%) of baby boomers. Thirty-eight percent of baby boomers and 19% of Gen Xers will never use biometrics, compared to only 6% of Gen Zers and 9% of millennials.
We’re not surprised younger generations are more likely to trust alternative authentication methods and embrace biometrics compared to older generations. In addition to differences in upbringing, younger generations use a greater volume of digital apps and services at a higher frequency than their older counterparts. With such a high rate of consumption, they’re after seamless login experiences and are more open to the emerging avenues that deliver on those expectations.
2. Younger generations are all-in on eIDs, while some older consumers hold out
Digital versions of physically issued identity credentials are rapidly gaining traction. They offer conveniences that resonate with younger generations’ preference for paperless, digital-first solutions.
Younger generations are much more likely to say they have an electronic ID (eID) — whether it be a driver’s license hosted on a mobile wallet or an ePassport booklet. Over half of Gen Z (56%) and millennials (55%) say they have an eID, compared to only 37% of Gen Xers and 12% of baby boomers. However, this difference may simply be due to a lack of awareness among older generations, considering a third (32%) of baby boomers say they’re unsure if they have an eID compared to only 19% of Gen Zers.
In addition to having a higher likelihood of possessing an eID, younger generations are also more likely to favor using eIDs and phasing out physical IDs completely compared to baby boomers.
|Percentage of respondents favorable toward the following stances:|
|Likelihood of using an eID||Support of phasing out physical IDs|
When we asked respondents why they would be likely to use a digital ID, the most important reason for Gen Z and millennials was “it’s convenient,” while Gen X and baby boomers selected “it’s secure” as their No. 1 motivating factor. However, that’s not to say younger generations don’t value security as well. When we asked opponents of eIDs why they would not be likely to use them, Gen Z respondents’ top concern was that they worry the option is not secure or it would be easier to have their identity stolen.
Younger consumers employ apps and digital services for everything — from shopping for clothes to finding dog walkers to alerting them to water their plants — so why not their identities? Older generations, on the other hand, are more skeptical of and less comfortable using digital technologies overall, so it makes sense they’re wary of allowing technology vendors to hold their most sensitive information.
3. Decentralized identities bridge opposing consumer preferences
In line with earlier findings, older generations tend to want more control over their personal data, while younger generations are more likely to accept sharing data as a necessary trade-off for convenient digital experiences.
While all respondents largely agreed with the statement “sharing personal information in exchange for access to goods, services, and applications is unavoidable. I have no choice but to allow access,” younger generations were more likely to strongly agree with the sentiment. Gen Z respondents were over twice as likely to strongly agree (30%) compared to baby boomers (12%).
Gen Zers are also more likely to believe they don’t own their identity information and credentials. When asked whether the issuer, data controller, or individual should own consumer identity information, Gen Z and millennials were nearly equally divided among the three groups. This stands in stark contrast to Gen X and baby boomer respondents, where half or more believed identity data should belong to the individual.
|Percentage of respondents who believe the following group should own identity information and citizen credentials:|
|The issuer||The data controller||The individual whose identity it is|
This belief in a lack of ownership over personal data may be why younger generations are much more likely to feel comfortable with an organization they trust owning and storing an online digital identity for them if it simplifies their digital experiences. Two-thirds of Gen Zers, 61% of millennials, and half (51%) of Gen Xers said they would be in favor of this option, compared to just over a third (35%) of baby boomers.
Older generations largely covet ownership over their data, while younger generations are willing to relinquish control — if they get something in return.
At this junction of opposing views, decentralized identities offer a promising solution. While the technology, and global interoperability, is not yet fully realized, decentralized identities would allow individuals to store and manage access to their identities, using encryption and digital keys to confirm certain aspects of their identity without exposing unnecessary personally identifiable information to the receiver. Decentralized identities have the potential to address concerns over data ownership and control, while still enabling convenient, modern user experiences.
Download the Future of Identity report to learn more
Data privacy is a contentious debate. Some users are fiercely protective over their data, while others welcome data sharing for convenient access to digital goods and services. Although older generations trend toward the former opinion and younger trend toward the latter, there will always be technology skeptics and proponents — especially when it comes to holding data that’s as sensitive as our personal identity information.
The bottom line? Our identities do live online. Now it’s a matter of figuring out exactly what that relationship looks like.
To learn more about passwordless authentication, eIDs, and decentralized identities — as well as how the general public feels about emerging identity topics — download our Future of Identity report. The report dives deeper into consumer sentiment and how employers, enterprises, and governments can navigate a changing identity landscape (hint: the future is hybrid).