Australians feeling more secure but wary on biometrics use: Unisys

Australians are happy to provide biometric identification when boarding aircraft but are far less accepting of allowing retailers to use biometrics to sell them products, the 2014 Unisys Security Index has shown.

The figures, which are released annually as a gauge into consumers' perceptions of various security issues, involved a poll of 1201 Australian adults and found that 75 per cent would be willing to provide a fingerprint or photograph to an automated boarding gate that could confirm their identities when boarding a flight.

Similarly, 71 per cent of respondents were willing to provide biometric data to prove they are low-risk frequent travellers.

By contrast, 63 per cent of respondents said they would not provide biometric information to access customised retail offers while in the airport.

The figures were lower than those from the 2012 survey, in which 95 per cent of respondents said it was OK for Customs or Immigration staff to use facial recognition to identify passengers on police watch lists.

Unisys Asia Pacific security program director John Kendall said the results confirmed that Australians are still quite protective of their personal privacy and remained cautious about giving away too much information unless they feel it is for the right reason.

“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,” Kendall said.

“This issue will gain scrutiny as retailers make 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.”

Unisys has long provided biometric solutions into government organisations, with contracts to provide facial image processing technology for Queensland Transport-issued driver licenses and another delivering biometric solutions as part of Unisys' role in the Department of Immigration and Border Protection's Enhanced Border Control Program.

Overall, the index reached its lowest level since Unisys began conducting the survey in 2006, with an overall score of 106 compared to 129 in 2013, 110 in 2012, and 111 in 2011.

The survey saw sharp declines in the percentage of respondents concerned about a serious health epidemic (down 15 per cent), war or terrorism (down 12 per cent), and the security of banking or shopping online (down 12 per cent).

Two technology-related issues topped the list, with 52 per cent of Australians extremely or very concerned about unauthorised access to their personal information and 51 percent concerned about other people using their credit card details.

These both represented a slight decline from the 2012 survey, when 54 per cent were concerned about identity theft and 56 per cent about others' use of their credit cards.

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

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