Consumers would trade privacy for convenience

While privacy remains a major concern for people around theworld, a majority of consumers would share personal data if theyknew the information was securely protected and if sharing it wouldmake their lives easier, according to Unisys Corp.’s Global Studyon the Public’s Perceptions about Identity Management.

The study, released this week, was independently conducted bythe Ponemon Institute to capture the perceptions of individuals inNorth America, Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America on methodsand technologies for managing identity within business andgovernment organizations, Unisys said. In addition, the studylooked at how individuals’ sense of privacy affects their views onnew ID management technologies such as biometrics.

“The No. 1 issue we were interested in exploring and we wereinterested to learn about was attitudes in different regions of theworld regarding authentication technology use and acceptability,”said Mark Cohn, vice president for homeland security solutions atUnisys.

“There have been a lot of concerns about privacy and a lot ofissues where businesses and government have been trying to dealwith authentication problems but in sort of an isolated way,” hesaid. What Unisys wanted to know was if there were “some kind ofconvergence and interoperability standards, would people becomfortable or uncomfortable with that.”

Cohn said Unisys’ thesis was that a single, general strategy forID authentication that could be adopted by businesses andgovernments — and was interoperable worldwide — would be moreefficient than the varying systems now in place.

“There’s an opportunity to save money, do a better job withsecurity and be more convenient for consumers if people arecomfortable with a convergence study,” he said.

What the study found was that in every region of the world,people would accept an identification strategy such as the use of amultipurpose ID or smart card that could serve as a driver’slicense and an ATM card and could be used to pay tolls or forborder crossings, Cohn said. A person’s health records could alsobe put on it, he said.

“So it’s a secure ID that can store multiapplication data formultiple purposes,” Cohn said. “And they put right on there digitalcertificates — PKI certificates — for encryption andauthentications. So now that same card can be used for Internetcommerce to prove you are who you claim to be. This card could beused for 14 different purposes. We’ve issued about 17 million topeople in Malaysia who voluntarily choose what they want their cardto be used for. Other countries are doing it as well, but thesesystems are not interoperable.”

Unisys also asked people about who they trusted to protect theirprivacy, who they trusted to be ID card issuers in differentregions of the world and what technology, such as biometrics, wouldthey be willing to use, he said.

“We asked at what level are you comfortable having yourfingerprints taken, because there are a lot of cultures where itwas thought there were a lot of objections to that,” Cohn said.“But we found that those objections aren’t as prevalent as wethought.”

The study also found that 46 percent of respondents trustbanking institutions to issue and manage a multi-purpose identitycredential, and 45 percent said they favor establishing agovernment agency to issue such cards. By contrast, only 40 percentsaid they trust the police to issue identity credentials, and 38percent said they favor having a private company issue IDcards.

More than 68 percent of respondents believe it is important forthe credential to work across international borders.

North American and Asia-Pacific consumers were willing to sharemore personal data — and preferred doing so with a governmentagency rather than a business — than Europeans and LatinAmericans. In contrast, respondents in Latin America were morewilling to share personal data with a business rather thangovernment.

Additional findings on biometrics include:

— Eighty-two percent said convenience — not having to rememberseparate passwords or other log-in data — is the top reason theysupport biometrics. And more than three-quarters of consumers citedspeeding up the ID verification process as their main reason forbacking biometrics.

— Seventy-one percent of consumers from North America supportthe use of biometrics for ID verification — more than any otherregion — followed by 69 percent of Europeans and 68 percent ofresidents of Asia-Pacific. Only 58 percent of Latin Americanssupport biometrics for identity verification.

— Thirty-two percent said voice recognition is their preferredauthentication method, followed by fingerprints (27 percent),facial scans (20 percent), hand geometry (12 percent) and irisscans (10 percent) — perhaps reflecting more consumer awarenessof, and experience with, voice and fingerprint biometrics.

North Americans are more leery of facial scans than residents ofother regions, with just 10 percent citing that method, comparedwith 27 percent in Europe, 23 percent in Asia-Pacific and 20percent in Latin America.

Of those respondents who do not favor biometrics for identityverification, almost three-quarters are suspicious of thetechnology, and 62 percent said they prefer nonbiometricidentification methods.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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