University study shows Australians willing to sacrifice privacy for security

May 4, 2015 - 

University of South Australia has released the results of two surveys which explore Australians’ attitudes towards security and privacy in which Australians admitted they are willing to sacrifice their privacy in exchange for better security, according to a report by In Daily.

Conducted by UniSA’s Institute of Choice, the surveys were based on the feedback of about 600 people following last year’s synchronised anti-terrorism police raids and Sydney’s Lindt Cafe siege.

More than 50 percent of respondents considered a range of security methods ‘acceptable’, including internet monitoring, mandatory DNA record-keeping, facial recognition technology, biometric scanning at airports, national ID cards, access to all travel information, bomb detection for vehicles in parking areas and x-ray scanning at major events and transport terminals.

“It seems Australians are fairly ready to trade off quite strong incursions into their personal privacy if they believe these will be effective in making their world safer,” said researcher Dr Simon Fifer. “As Australians, we like to think of ourselves as naturally a bit rebellious towards authority but our research is really not supporting that stereotype.”

Those security measures that were considered acceptable by less than 50 percent of respondents included allowing authorities to listen to telephone conversations and allowing them access to all financial information.

The survey found very high acceptance levels of some measures including 76 percent respondents admitting they were fine with providing governments with access to all personal travel information.

Conducted after the Sydney siege at the Lindt café in December 2014, the second survey showed that Australians were willing to accept bomb detection procedures for public vehicle parking, biometric scanning at all airports, and x-ray scanners at all public events.

The survey showed that the mandatory national ID card – a security measure that Australians have rejected several times in the past – now has a 77 percent acceptability rating.

“What the results suggest is that when people have elevated fear of terrorism, they are much more ready to agree to restrictions and regulations, that at other times might have been considered heavy handed or draconian,” said Fifer.

“People are slightly irrational, but the fear still exists. The media reporting on terrorism … whether at home or overseas: we’re bombarded with this. If you were to put it in perspective, you might get people to be more rational about it, but because they’re just absorbing all this information … it just translates into a bigger issue.”

Fifer emphasized that the survey does not give “the complete picture,” but rather, is simply “the start of the study”.

The Institute plans on conducting further studies on Australians’ attitudes towards security, especially at a later time where terrorism is less prominent in the media.

The surveys’ participants included Australians from all states and territories in both urban and regional communities, with an even distribution of people across ages and gender.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.