January 16, 2010

Quantifying people’s trade-offs across liberty, privacy and security

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Security, At What Cost?

Quantifying people's trade-offs across liberty, privacy and security

By: Neil Robinson, Dimitris Potoglou, Chong Woo Kim, Peter Burge, Richard Warnes

The heightened security environment in the United Kingdom today is resplendent with examples of government policy that must strike a delicate balance between strengthening security without jeopardising public liberties and personal privacy. The introduction of national identity cards and biometric passports, the expansion of the DNA database, and cross-departmental sharing of information raise a number of privacy issues. Civil liberties may be suspended by the exercise of stop and search powers by the police or detention of suspects prior to a trial. Much of the current privacy vs. security debate occurs at an emotional level with little evidence informing the argument. This report outlines the results of a stated preference discrete choice modelling study that sought to objectively understand the real privacy, liberty and security trade-offs of individuals so that policy makers can be better informed about individuals true preferences in this domain. Three real-life case studies were investigated where these factors come into play; applying for a passport; travel on the national rail network and attendance at a major public event such as the opening ceremony of the Olympics. A panel of internet users demographically weighted to the UK population were asked to choose amongst different alternatives for each of the scenarios. The data was analysed and individuals were found to be willing to pay for advanced CCTV cameras with facial recognition technology, X-Ray machines & body scanners and various forms of security personnel. Socio-demographic segments in the sample also became evident.

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