30 April 2015

shutterstock_225891286About three out of four Australians are ready to trade convenience and privacy for security according to research being conducted by the University of South Australia’s Institute for Choice, but they are least willing to lay open personal financial information to scrutiny or allow phone tapping. 

Researcher at UniSA’s Institute for Choice Dr Simon Fifer says while Australians believed the use of screening and monitoring such as facial recognition technology, a national ID card system, biometric scanning and vehicle tracking might be inconvenient, because of their fears around the threat of terror, many would accept them. 

“We have conducted two waves of research with samples from around the whole nation, including urban and regional populations,” Dr Fifer says. 

“The second wave, undertaken just after Sydney siege at the Lindt café in December 2014, 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. 

“And 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.” 

The 10 activities that ranked more than 50 per cent acceptable included bomb detection for vehicles in parking areas, biometric scanning at airports, x-ray scanning at major events and transport terminals, facial recognition technology, national ID cards, access to all travel information, satellite surveillance, retina scanning, military security, vehicle tracking, mandatory DNA records and internet monitoring. 

“As Australians we like to think of ourselves as naturally a bit rebellious towards authority but our research is really not supporting that stereotype,” Dr Fifer says. 

“We found very high acceptance levels of some measures including giving free access to all personal travel information (76 per cent). 

“Interestingly the notion of a mandatory national ID card – something Australians have historically rejected several times – now has a 77 per cent acceptability rating.” 

UniSA’s Institute for Choice researchers sampled Australian opinions in all states and territories and across rural and regional communities. The sample included a fairly even distribution of people across ages and gender with slightly more male respondents. 

“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,” Dr Fifer says. 

“We want to continue to explore this relationship to see if some distance from perceived threats changes people’s views and their willingness to accept increases to surveillance systems and functions.”  

Media contact: Michèle Nardelli office: +61 8 8302 0966 mobile: 0418 823 673 email: michele.nardelli@unisa.edu.au





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