Discover to Use Fingerprints for Credit Card Payments

In our relentless march toward efficiency, the public will do just about anything to save precious time so we can spend more of our lives on Facebook fretting about privacy concerns that don’t exist. Human nature is peculiar indeed, particularly when it comes to our obsession with our personal privacy.

Now that Discovery Financial Services plans to implement a new and efficient payment system, we know the public will take notice despite the fact that it’s currently limited to on-site employees. Why? Because this new payment system uses personal fingerprints instead of credit cards to charge customers. Did you just ball your hand into a fist as your read that last sentence? That’s totally understandable.

Using one’s fingerprints to buy a case of beer would make even the most easy-going American wary. Our prints are unique, and they’re so closely linked to our personal identity, our humanity and our individuality that fingerprints alone can send someone to jail—even if they happen to be innocent. Fingerprints are that powerful, and using them to do something as menial as shop makes the public queasy.

So, from a public relations perspective, what should Discovery do to promote this new payment system?

The company should educate the public. When the public has an inherent distrust of something, the only way to gain its members’ favor is to present them with an honest and compelling argument for why they should see something differently.

PR professionals know never to underestimate the public. The public is smart and discerning and when treated with respect, it is open to ideas. The idea that a personal fingerprint will provide more—not less—security is a sound one, because it requires that the actual person be present during transactions. Discover needs to drive this message home because the change they’re attempting to make is evolutionary.

The physical act of offering one’s finger to complete a transaction may take time for the public to accept, but it will happen. Remember how people argued that ebooks would never be successful because readers want the feeling of turning the pages of traditional books? Well, there you go.

At its heart, the PR industry is about people–and that means human nature. As we all know, human nature adapts to just about anything over time.

Discover is certainly banking on it.