More than one in five (22%) Americans say they have cancelled plans or considered cancelling plans to attend large-scale public events due to concerns about physical attacks and the safety of their data, according to the new 2019 Unisys Security Index.
Safety at events
The survey also found that a high majority (83%) of Americans are concerned about a criminal attack causing physical harm at large-scale events such as sporting events or concert festivals – with half of respondents (50%) registering serious concern (extremely or very concerned) about physical attacks.
Asked about data safety at such events, 81% of respondents reported some level of concern about someone stealing their personal data when using public Wi-Fi at such events, with 52% extremely or very concerned. In addition, 78% are concerned about someone stealing their credit card data when using public Wi-Fi at such events – with 52% extremely or very concerned.
Because many have to travel by air to attend such events, the survey – the longest-running snapshot of consumer security concerns conducted globally – also asked U.S. respondents about their support for using biometric data to verify their identities at airports.
The Unisys Security Index found a large majority approved of the use of biometrics for security, reliability and convenience purposes. A large majority of respondents (81%) said they are comfortable with using biometrics, with 42% citing safety and terrorism prevention as the reason. About one-third of survey participants stated reliability as a reason, and about one-third cited convenience.
Those who do not support the use of biometrics for air travel most often cited lack of trust in government or airport authorities or concerns that the data would be lost or hacked as the reasons they do not support it.
”In light of the many highly-publicized attacks at large public gatherings, it might not be surprising that many Americans express concern about their physical safety when attending these events. But what may surprise observers is that they also report similar levels of concern about the security of the personal data they carry around on their mobile devices in public,” said Unisys Chief Trust Officer Tom Patterson.
“This underscores the need for governments to work with industry to provide innovative ways to protect the devices that are becoming inseparable from people in public spaces.”
2019 Unisys Security Index: Concern increases over 2018 levels
The 2019 Unisys Security Index surveyed more than 13,000 consumers in 13 countries, including more than 1,000 in the U.S., in February and March 2019 with additional supplemental research in April 2019. Unisys Corporation gauged their attitudes on a wide range of security-related issues and created an index based on their feedback.
The index is a calculated score from zero to 300 based on concern about eight specific issues within the categories of national, financial, internet and personal security.
The new survey shows the U.S. score remaining at its second-highest level since the survey began 11 years ago. The index reached its highest level in 2017 but dropped slightly the following year and increased slightly this year.
On a scale of zero to 300, with 300 representing the highest level of concern, the U.S. index is now at 165, considered a serious level of concern and the highest among the seven developed countries surveyed.
Concerns around the world
The survey also found that security concerns in all countries are higher among younger people and those with lower incomes. In the U.S., the survey found 29% greater concern among 18 to 24-year-olds than respondents ages 55 to 65. U.S. respondents with lower incomes reported 24% more concern than higher-income respondents.
More specifically, survey respondents expressed the highest concerns around the subjects of identity theft (part of the personal security category), with 63% saying they are “very or extremely concerned;” bankcard fraud, with 58% saying they are “very or extremely concerned;” and national security with regard to war or terrorism, also with 58% saying they are “very or extremely concerned.”
“The 2019 Unisys Security Index shows that security concerns remain high in the U.S., a condition that has now extended to leisure time activities such as travel and attending sporting events or music festivals,” said Patterson.
“These concerns relate to physical security but are just as high when it comes to online personal data security. Many consumers believe biometric-based technologies can help, but government and private companies that hold this data have to do more to convince them their data – and identities – will remain safe and secure.”