Setting IoT boundaries: should personal data be shared?

Wednesday, 19 July, 2017

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Australians are selectively embracing the Internet of Things (IoT), new research has revealed.

According to the Unisys Security Index, the majority of Australians are in favour of using a button of their phone or smart watch to alert police to their location during emergencies. However, only 35% of those surveyed believed it was acceptable for police to monitor their fitness tracker to determine location at any other time.

The findings indicate that Australians will embrace the IoT where they see a compelling reason, such as personal safety and medical emergencies, but concerns about privacy and data security mean they want to be able to control which organisations can access their data.

“These findings highlight that when it comes to personal data there is a very delicate balance between privacy, security and convenience — even for organisations generally trusted by the public,” said John Kendall, director of border and national security programs, Unisys.

Privacy and security concerns are key reasons Australians do not support the IoT, particularly if they do not feel it is a compelling enough reason to share their data or if they do not want an organisation to have such data about them. Data security is the biggest barrier cited for not supporting a smart watch payment app.

“To address consumer concern around data security of smart watch payment channels, banks need a multipronged approach that spans technology and policies to secure the data, as well as reassuring customers by communicating the steps taken by the bank to protect them — a fine line in delivering a frictionless customer experience whilst making sure they are secure,” said Richard Parker, vice president financial services, Unisys Asia Pacific.

Wearable biometrics are part of the IoT phenomenon — wearable technology that analyses human characteristics to confirm an identity or monitor critical medical data.

Three-quarters of Australians support police or border security staff wearing facial recognition body cameras to identify criminals or terrorists who are on watchlists. They also support medical sensors transmitting any significant changes to a patient’s doctor.

“Approximately half of Aussie consumers support a fingerprint scan to control access to data on a smart watch (52%) or to authorise a payment from the smart watch (48%). This is a clear signal to banks that biometrics could help alleviate consumer concerns about smart watch payment channels,” said Parker.

While 50% of Australians support airline staff wearing facial recognition glasses to verify the identities of passengers boarding aircraft at airports, only 29% support the same glasses being used to identify VIP customers for special treatment.

“Aussies see it as a trade-off: is it a compelling enough reason for that organisation to capture this information about me? The findings reveal law enforcement, national security and serious medical conditions are considered acceptable justification, but customer loyalty programs and employee tracking are not — the impact on privacy outweighs the personal benefit,” said Kendall.

Support for analysis of data collected from a range of sources also varies. The majority of Australians do not support data analytics being used to sell goods and services to them, while 62% do not support banks monitoring individual customer spending behaviour to offer related products such as insurance for items they have purchased.

“Customers expect businesses to know them based on the history of their relationship. In a world where interactions may be across a range of channels and not just in person, many organisations are turning to data analytics to provide extra insight. Ironically, while they may be trying to improve the customer experience, if businesses cross the line and appear to invade their privacy by revealing that they know more about them than what the customer has knowingly shared, it just turns the customer off,” said Parker.

The technology enabling IoT will continue to evolve and progress. However, the Unisys Security Index findings suggest that organisations planning to tap into the trend will first need to understand and respond to consumer concerns around privacy and data security.

The study polled 1002 adults in Australia during April 2017.

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