U.S. consumers largely support sharing personal data with police or healthcare providers via smart devices, but enthusiasm varies depending on why and by whom the data is collected and how it is to be used, according to the 2017 Unisys Security Index™.

Survey results in the U.S. found:

  • Eighty-four percent of Americans surveyed support using a button on their phones or smartwatches to alert police to their location during emergencies. By contrast, only 32 percent of Americans support police being able to monitor fitness tracker data anytime to determine their location.
  • More than three-quarters of U.S. respondents registered support for Safe Cities technologies ranging from sensors that can automatically detect harmful chemicals or radiation (86 percent of respondents said this technology would make them feel safer) to sensors that can determine where and when a gun has been fired and automatically notify police (76 percent).
  • Seventy-seven percent of U.S. respondents said they would feel safer with the deployment of both video surveillance systems that can detect suspicious behavior and automatically notify police. The same percentage support equipping police with facial recognition technology to enable them to identify criminals who should be apprehended.
  • American consumers registered high support for the ability of medical devices such as pacemakers or blood sugar sensors to immediately transmit significant changes to a patient's doctor, with 78 percent of respondents supportive.
  • Only about one in three American respondents (36 percent) support health insurers accessing fitness tracker data to determine a premium or reward customers for good behavior.

"Americans want to obtain the efficiencies and security benefits of the Internet of Things (IoT), but not at the expense of losing control of their personal data," said Bill Searcy, vice president, Justice, Law Enforcement and Border Security for Unisys and a former FBI deputy assistant director. "For the IoT to succeed, governments, healthcare organizations, financial institutions and other enterprises must take steps to assure the public that personal data collected from IoT devices will be secure and that privacy will be protected."

Smart devices, part of the IoT phenomenon, refer to objects or systems that can connect and exchange information over the Internet. According to the study, Americans generally support IoT applications that promote security and convenience, the study found. Beyond support for IoT technology for law enforcement and healthcare, U.S. consumers said they also see potential value in areas such as air travel and banking.


For example, 70 percent of U.S. respondents support the use of sensors in luggage that communicate with an airport's baggage management system and an app on mobile phones to tell them when their luggage has been unloaded and on what carousel it will be. Americans were divided on support for using a smartwatch app from a bank or credit card company to make payments, with 40 percent supportive and 40 percent against it.


Most U.S. respondents who did not support some IoT applications reported that they simply did not want various organizations to obtain information about them. Also, many said they did not see a compelling need for the organizations to obtain the data.

Nearly half (49 percent) of those who did not support using a smartwatch app from a bank or credit card company to make payments said they were most worried about the security of those transactions.

When asked specifically about their concerns about hackers or malicious intruders gaining access to their financial transactions, more than 90 percent of U.S. respondents registered some level of concern about the security of transactions using mobile devices or computer – with nearly 60 percent reporting they are "very" or "extremely" concerned about the security of those transactions.

A large majority of U.S. respondents also registered concern about the possibility of hackers or malicious intruders gaining access to internet-connected medical devices such as defibrillators, pacemakers or insulin pumps belonging to them or someone they know – with 78 percent reporting some level of concern and 51 percent "very" or "extremely" concerned.

"Banks and other financial institutions can address consumer concerns around data security of smartwatch payment channels through a multi-pronged approach that addresses both policy and technology – such as the use of biometrics," said Eric Crabtree, vice president and global head of Unisys Financial Services. "These types of technological advances can more quickly and accurately determine whether a transaction is fraudulent, giving customers a greater sense of security."