Americans happy to share data in emergencies, but snooping fears remain

Americans happy to share data in emergencies, but snooping fears remain

Americans happy to share data with emergency services law enforcement

The majority of US consumers would happily share their personal data with police or healthcare providers via IoT devices, but there are limits to what they will share and with whom, according to a survey from Unisys Security.

The results were released in the 2017 Unisys Security Index, a global study of 1,000 adults in the US during April 2017, which gauges their attitudes on a wide range of security issues.

In general, Americans support IoT applications that promote safety and convenience in areas such as law enforcement and healthcare, the survey found. Consumers said they also see potential value in areas such as air travel and banking.

Who? What? Why?

Their enthusiasm depends on a number of factors, however, including why the data is being collected, by whom, and how it will be used.

For example, 84 percent of Americans surveyed said they support the use of a button on their smartphone or smartwatch to notify police of their location in an emergency. There is a thin line marking how far they would be prepared to share, though: only 32 percent saying they support police being able to monitor data on, say, a fitness tracker at anytime in order to determine their location.

Similarly, the majority of respondents (78 percent) support the ability of medical devices such as pacemakers or blood sugar sensors to immediately transmit significant changes in health conditions to a patient’s doctor. By contrast, only 36 percent support health insurers accessing fitness tracker data to determine a premium or reward customers for good behavior, the survey reveals.

Read more: Healthcare IoT world must prepare for GDPR, lawyers warn

Barriers to acceptance

Barriers to IoT acceptance arise when consumers are unable to see a compelling need for an organization to obtain their data, Unisys said. As evidence of this, nearly half (49 percent) of those who did not support using a smartwatch app from a bank or credit card company to make payments said they were most worried about the security of those transactions. Specifically, 90 percent of those respondents are concerned about hackers or malicious malware gaining access to their financial transactions.

The same is true of medical devices, with 78 percent of consumers reporting some level of concern and 51 percent “very” or “extremely” concerned about hackers or malicious intruders gaining access to IoT defibrilators, pacemakers or insulin pumps.

Convenience versus control

“Americans want to obtain the efficiencies and security benefits of the Internet of Things (IoT), but not at the expense of losing control of their personal data,” said Bill Searcy, vice president, Justice, Law Enforcement and Border Security for Unisys and a former FBI deputy assistant director.

“For the IoT to succeed, governments, healthcare organizations, financial institutions and other enterprises must take steps to assure the public that personal data collected from IoT devices will be secure and that privacy will be protected.”

Read more: UK police to embrace IoT in age of ‘Digital Darwinism’