Public Security Blog
The Security vs Social Media Trade Off
A new study has found that nearly half (48%) of the British public would be prepared to share personal data with the police in return for enhanced personal security against criminal or terrorist attacks. The survey of more than 2,000 adults, carried out for SAS by online polling firm, YouGov, finds that people are most willing to share information when they expect it to lead to higher levels of security and that generally, they trust the police with this information far more than they trust the Government.
It is clear that while people remain cautious about who has access to the data they share online, and on social media networks in particular, their concern about crime and terrorism is such that many are prepared to sacrifice privacy in return for greater peace of mind about personal security.
It is also interesting that the percentage prepared to share personal data with the police in return for enhanced personal security against criminal or terrorist attacks was much higher than with other groups. 37% claimed they would be prepared to share with border/customs for the same reasons but only 22% were prepared to share with the Government.
This confidence in sharing when there is a clear security benefit contrasts strongly with the public’s continuing wariness about Government, banks or other groups using the information they’ve posted online or even knowing where they are.
77% of the survey sample said they would not be prepared for any groups to have access to their location information while 82% were not comfortable about groups using personal information they’ve made available on social media.
This willingness to share with the police highlights that despite negative publicity about poor police relations with the public being a factor in last Summer’s riots, there is a readiness among the public to engage with the police if it leads to enhanced personal security.
This in turn highlights the scale of the opportunity for the police to tap into a rich source of public information - a source that is likely to be strengthened still further if they are successful in building levels of trust with the public and stronger community links.
Another key survey finding highlights a further opportunity for the police to engage with the public and gather critical intelligence at the same time.
The research found that people’s growing interest in using social media for public security extends to an increasing willingness to report crimes via social media rather than by telephone or face-to-face, especially among the young. 15% of 18-24-year-olds said they would use a social media site to contact the police if they witnessed a crime - as opposed to only 1% of the 55-plus age range.
It is clear that younger people in particular, increasingly appreciate the benefits of swapping privacy for enhanced security.
Of course, the public does need to exercise caution online. Users can protect themselves by being more cautious about the personal details they post on social media. Only post what you are happy for anyone to see is a good rule of thumb. They should also check their settings, taking advantage of a site’s privacy settings and make sensible decisions in deciding which apps they use.
On the other hand the huge rise of social media sites indicates that people are always keen to meet people and build social networks easily online. Sharing information online with groups like police can definitely help the authorities to keep people safe. And individuals that do share with these groups can rest safe in the knowledge that they are making a meaningful contribution to the enhanced personal security of us all.