Data protectionAmericans anxious about identity theft

Published 8 November 2011

Americans will go to great lengths to avoid identity theft, and many say they would take legal action against government or private organizations that compromise their personal data; more than half of surveyed Americans are willing to provide biometric data to secure their identities

Americans will go to great lengths to avoid identity theft, and many say they would take legal action against government or private organizations that compromise their personal data, according to new research conducted by Unisys Corporation.

Results from the bi-annual Unisys Security Index, which surveys more than 1,000 Americans for consumer views on a wide range of security concerns, indicated that more than three-quarters of respondents would stop dealing with an organization entirely in the event of a security breach, underlining the need to better protect customers’ personal data shared electronically.

Nearly 90 percent of all survey respondents said they would take some sort of action in the event of a data breach, ranging from conservative solutions like changing their passwords (87 percent) to those with more serious commercial implications, such as closing their accounts (76 percent) or taking legal action (53 percent).

Organizations that ignore security concerns also face public perception risks. Nearly 65 percent of U.S. survey respondents said they’d publicly expose a company that allows a breach. In a world where communities such as Facebook and Twitter provide the opportunity instantly to broadcast dissatisfaction to a broad audience, this threat seems more real than ever before.

The Unisys study also revealed that more than half of surveyed Americans are willing to provide biometric data to secure their identities. This includes a willingness to provide biometric data at security checkpoints at airports (59.6 percent); when conducting financial transactions with banking institutions (56.9 percent); and when receiving government benefits or other services (53.0 percent).

Still, only 21.3 percent were willing to give their biometric data to social media sites, suggesting a perception that either these entities were less careful with their data, or that the risk was simply not worth the reward.

The latest results of the Unisys Security Index suggest that organizations face very real business and financial implications for security breaches,” said Steve Vinsik, vice president, enterprise security, Unisys. “Given recent highly publicized breaches that have exposed large amounts of sensitive data, the results should be a wake-up call for organizations to take more proactive measures to protect customer data.”

The new findings follow the results of the May 2011 Unisys Security Index, in which 70 percent of respondents reported they were seriously concerned about identity theft.

The Unisys Security Index found similar responses in eleven other countries where the survey was performed. For example, 82 percent of citizens surveyed in the United Kingdom said they would close their accounts with an organization responsible for a breach of their private data. In Mexico, 62 percent said they would publicly expose the issue, and 86 percent of Brazilians surveyed said they would take legal action.

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