Almost eight in 10 Australians have backed biometric-based security measures to verify the identity of passengers boarding aircraft at airports.
But when it comes to retailers using biometrics to make customised sales offers, this is something Australians overwhelmingly reject as we become more concerned with the security of our personal data.
That's according to the 2014 Unisys Security Index, an annual global study that provides insights into the attitudes of consumers on a wide range of issues related to national, personal, financial and Internet security.
The study, conducted in Australia by Newspoll, surveyed 1,201 adults between 14–19 March 2014.
The overall Unisys Security Index for 2014 is 106 out of 300, down 23 points compared to the last survey in 2013.
This places Australians as “moderately concerned” and is the lowest index since the research was first conducted in Australia in 2006.
The top two areas of security concern for Australians are related to identity theft.
The three biggest changes included the percentage of Australians extremely or very concerned about a serious health epidemic occurring in Australia fell 15 percentage points to 25 percent.
Secondly, Australia’s national security in relation to war/terrorism fell 12 percentage points to 32 percent.
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Lastly, the security of shopping or banking online fell 12 percentage points to 29 percent.
Unisys security program director, John Kendall, said the top areas of concern reflected recent events.
"With regular reports of data breaches, financial fraud and identity theft in the media, Australians are aware of, and concerned about, these issues most," he said.
"Similarly the Malaysian tragedy means that airport security is top of mind,” explained Mr Kendall.
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The survey found 75 per cent of Australians said they were willing to provide biometric information such as a fingerprint or photograph so that an automated boarding gate could confirm their identities when they boarded a flight.
It also found 71 per cent of Australians said that they would be willing to provide personal biometric data to prove their identities as frequent travellers of low security risk.
However, only 33 per cent of Australians surveyed said they were willing to provide biometric information in order to access customised retail offers in the airport. And 63 per cent said they were not willing to do so.
Kendall said while Australians were willing to give up some sensitive personal information in return for the convenience of faster processing through the airport, they were not willing for the same information to be used for the convenience of personalised retail offers
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“This may be because immigration and customs processing are mandatory and recognised as core security processes which already have systems and processes in place to protect personal data," he said.
"Whereas retailers may not yet have earned that level of trust in their ability to protect data, or shopping convenience is simply not seen as a serious enough reason to give up personal biometric data.
He said this issue would gain scrutiny as retailers made more use of big data analytics to collect, combine, interrogate and use information about their customers.
“The result clearly demonstrates that Australians are discriminating when it comes to the use of personal biometric data and are wary if the use is not directly linked to a security related initiative in the nation’s airports,” he said.