Most Americans willing to sacrifice some privacy to enhance safe air travel

14th Apr 2010
Most Americans willing to sacrifice some privacy to enhance safe air travel

Ninety-three percent of Americans said they 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 ( UIS). Nearly two-thirds of Americans (65%) said they are willing to cooperate with full electronic body scans at the airport, and more than half (57%) would be willing to submit to identity checks using biometric data such as iris scans or fingerprints.

Nearly three quarters of Americans (72%) 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% of citizens in the United Kingdom and 70% of Australians said they would submit to electronic body scans.

“An overwhelming majority of the global population is willing to cooperate with enhanced travel security mandates, suggesting that the public is willing to give up some privacy in return for safer air travel,” said Mark Cohn, vice president of enterprise security, Unisys. “This suggests that the public supports technologies, communications and personnel to enhance security at our nation’s airports, borders and ports.”

Recognizing the need to address air travel security concerns, Unisys today also announced the launch of 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.


The latest results of the Unisys Security Index also confirmed that national security and identity theft rank as America’s top concerns, with nearly two-thirds (65%) “extremely” or “very” concerned about U.S. national security and 64% seriously concerned about identity theft.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans (62%) are also seriously concerned about credit and debit card fraud. The percentage of Americans who are seriously concerned about the security of online transactions is at the highest level now (43%) since the Unisys Security Index began three years ago. The percentage of Americans who are “extremely concerned” about the security of their online transactions rose to 20% (up from 16% in September 2009).

These findings reflect recent trends reported by the U.S. government and other organizations. Last month, the FBI reported that losses due to internet fraud more than doubled in 2009 to nearly $560 million. In 2009, identity theft jumped 12 percent, hitting 11.1 million U.S. consumers, according to an annual survey released last month by Javelin Strategy & Research.

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% of those surveyed saying they were concerned about this area. The number of Americans “extremely” concerned about identity theft rose to 31%, up from 26% 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% in September 2009 to 20% 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% in September 2009 to 23% presently), while there has been an uptick in Americans “not at all concerned” about a national health epidemic— 18% in September 2009 to 21% 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. “I find the results of the Unisys Security Index as compelling evidence that people throughout the world care deeply about their personal safety, especially when traveling on a commercial airline.”

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% of citizens approving the procedure. A large majority of the Dutch public (81%) were also in favor, followed by Australians (70%).
  * 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% of the Mexican adults and 45% 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% 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%) are seriously concerned about national security, the top concern in the country. Only 4% of Mexicans said they were not concerned about national security.


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