26 Mar 2014

9 in 10 people are concerned about who can access their personal information

90% of people are ‘concerned that their personal information may be shared without their permission’. That was the conclusion of a UK summit on surveillance, privacy and security held in Birmingham on Saturday 15 March 2014.

Hosted by broadcaster and economist, Evan Davis and developed by The Open University Business School (OUBS) the SurPRISE (Surveillance, Privacy and Security) UK Citizens’ Summit invited a carefully selected sample of 214 local residents to two events (1 March and 15 March 2014) to explore the public’s perception of surveillance in society.

Whilst the large majority of participants were concerned about their personal information being shared without their permission, 82% said that, having participated in the Summit, they were in favour of surveillance orientated security technologies. However, 67% still had concerns that the existing and new technologies employed by security agencies may lead to an invasion of their privacy.

The research initiative is a result of the growing recognition by European Union policy makers that the pace of developments in security and surveillance technologies, such as Smart CCTV and Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), is often out-stripping laws, protocols and regulations. The EU commissioned the SurPRISE Citizens’ Summit, major study of 1,800 citizens in nine countries to better understand the ideas and views of citizens across Europe*.

Professor of Organisation at OUBS, Kirstie Ball and her colleagues Professor Sally Dibb and Sara Degli Esposti are leading the research in the UK. Professor Ball has specialised in the use of surveillance technology in society for over 20 years; she said: “Every day we provide agencies, organisations and governing bodies with a wealth of information about ourselves, our activities and our attitudes; often, we share this information unwittingly.

“We know that there are clear differences in the use of surveillance technologies between European nations, including public perception and tolerance. The SurPRISE UK Citizens’ Summit 2014 in Birmingham has provided a platform for people to voice their opinion and enable us to gain a real understanding of how aware the British public are of security in our society and how comfortable they are with the increasing implementation of surveillance technologies.”

Speaking at the event, Evan Davis said: “Most people would like to be kept safe and secure in their daily lives. However, it is also apparent that people want the securocrats whose job it is to watch over us to maintain the right balance between privacy and surveillance.

“When it comes to striking that balance, the opinion that should be given the most weight is that of the public themselves. Summits such as these provide a formal, structured way for people to make informed decisions about, and contributions to, their own security.”

Susan Dudley attended the event to learn more about how surveillance technology is developing. She said: “Attending this event made me feel more comfortable about surveillance for protection although I am very concerned about DPI and wouldn’t like this to be used for marketing purposes. Weighing up all the information we received from the experts makes me feel more safe in my daily life, but far less safe when using the internet.”

Notes to Editors:
*Countries participating in the SurPRISE Citizens’ Summit include:
Austria, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
The Institut für Technikfolgen-Abshätzung / Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften (ITA/OEAW) is leading on the project overall, with The Open University Business School leading on the gathering of the UK research and processing of the data.

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