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Americans Willing to Sacrifice Some Privacy for Safe Air Travel

April 13, 2010 By: Staff

About 93 percent of Americans are willing to sacrifice some level of privacy to increase safety when traveling by air, according to research conducted in January and February by Unisys Corporation. Nearly two-thirds of Americans (65 percent) said they are willing to cooperate with full electronic body scans at the airport, and more than half (57 percent) would be willing to submit to identity checks using biometric data such as iris scans or fingerprints. Nearly three quarters of Americans (72 percent) said they are willing to provide personal data in advance of air travel to increase security.

The findings, part of the latest bi-annual Unisys Security Index, illustrate that recent events such as the attempted Christmas Day airline bombing may have made security a priority for air travelers. A clear majority of citizens in nearly every country surveyed said they would be willing to forgo privacy to increase air travel security. For example, 90 percent of citizens in the United Kingdom and 70 percent of Australians said they would submit to electronic body scans.

"This [data] suggests that the public supports technologies, communications and personnel to enhance security at our nation's airports, borders and ports," said Mark Cohn, vice president of enterprise security, Unisys.

In concordance with the release of the survey, Unisys is launching its Next Generation Airport Passenger Security Solution. This new solution integrates advanced technologies with existing IT and communication systems to provide passengers with a streamlined travel experience while enhancing security and reducing costs.

Overall Results of Latest Wave of Security Index

The Unisys Security Index surveys consumer opinion on four areas of security: financial, national, Internet and personal safety. More than 1,000 Americans responded to the latest survey. The results are tallied on a scale of 0-300, with 300 representing the highest level of perceived concern.

The overall score for the current Unisys Security Index for the United States was 147, indicating a moderate level of overall security concern. The overall score came in unchanged from the last survey taken in September 2009.

National security emerged again in the latest results as the U.S. public's greatest area of concern, with 65 percent of those surveyed saying they were concerned about this area. The number of Americans "extremely" concerned about identity theft rose to 31 percent, up from 26 percent in September 2009.

Americans' fear surrounding their ability to meet their essential financial obligations--which was the leading concern one year ago— continues to be on the decline. The most dramatic decline was reported in those "very concerned" about financial security— from 25 percent in September 2009 to 20 percent in February 2010.

The research reveals another significant drop in the proportion of American adults who are "very concerned" about a national health epidemic like H1N1 (30 percent in September 2009 to 23 percent presently), while there has been an uptick in Americans "not at all concerned" about a national health epidemic— 18 percent in September 2009 to 21 percent currently.

"The finding that an overwhelming number of Americans are willing to submit private information to enjoy safe air travel provides strong evidence that the public's privacy fears may be in decline," said Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute, an independent research and consulting firm.

Additional key global findings from the latest Unisys Security Index include:

*    Citizens of the UK were the most accepting of electronic body scans at airports, with 90 percent of citizens approving the procedure. A large majority of the Dutch public (81 percent) were also in favor, followed by Australians (70 percent).
*    Mexico and Hong Kong were the only countries surveyed in which a majority did not indicate willingness to submit to electronic body scans at airports. Only 24 percent of the Mexican adults and 45 percent of those in Hong Kong said they would support use of the procedure.
*    Security concerns were highest in Brazil, which reported an overall index score of 177, closely followed by Mexico with a score of 173. The Netherlands reported the lowest level of concern with an overall score of 70.
*    Identity crime ranks as the overall greatest concern in the United Kingdom. 87 percent of UK adults are worried about unauthorized access to their personal information and the same percentage expressed fear about other people obtaining or using their credit card or debit card details.
*    National security concern is extremely high in Mexico. More than three-quarters of Mexicans (77 percent) are seriously concerned about national security, the top concern in the country. Only 4 percent of Mexicans said they were not concerned about national security.


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