Photo - John Kendall, Security Program Director, Unisys Asia Pacific.
Of 12 countries surveyed in latest 2014 Unisys Security Index, Malaysia records largest increase in overall security concern and second highest concern level behind only Mexico, said the IT security services firm.
Speaking in Kuala Lumpur recently, Unisys Asia Pacific's security program director John Kendall said three in four Malaysians surveyed support the use of biometric-based security measures to verify the identity of passengers boarding aircraft.
Despite this, the majority does not support using a biometric-based trusted traveller program to expedite immigration checks and are even less supportive of airport retailers using biometrics to make customised sales offers, Kendall said.
The survey found 77 percent of Malaysians are willing to provide biometric information such as a fingerprint or photograph to allow an automated boarding gate to confirm their identities when they board a flight. Female respondents, and those aged 35-49 years, were the most supportive of biometrics used for this purpose, he said.
"These findings show that there is a willingness to apply stringent forms of identity verification deeper into the passenger's airport journey to confirm that only approved passengers are boarding flights," said Kendall.
"It is getting more difficult to verify the identities of travellers boarding flights, particularly in transit airports where boarding passes can be swapped without the need to go through local immigration checks," he said.
"Biometric-based identification would allow airlines to more effectively confirm that the person stepping onto a plane is the real holder of the passport and boarding pass they carry," he said.
Kendall said that the survey however found only 35 percent of Malaysians are willing to provide personal biometric data to prove their identities as part of a trusted traveller programme to access expedited processing of pre-approved, low-risk travellers through dedicated lanes and kiosks. In comparison, 71 percent of Australians said they support such a program.
"Malaysian resistance to a fast-tracked immigration processing lane for frequent travellers may reflect heightened concerns about airport security after investigations into the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 highlighted the issue of passengers travelling on stolen or false passports as they may see this as relaxing security processes," he said.
"To gain the public's trust of a trusted traveller system, such as those used in Australia, Canada, the U.S. and U.K., a public education programme is required to show how biometrics would maintain high level security by accurately verifying the pre-registered traveller is who they say they are, before they can access the expedited immigration processing," Kendall said.
"Looking at other applications of biometrics in airports, only 17 percent of Malaysians surveyed said they were willing to provide biometric information in order to access customised retail offers in the airport," he said. "And 83 percent said they were not willing to do so."
"This may be because retailers have not yet earned consumer trust in their ability to protect data, or it may be that shopping convenience is simply not seen as a serious enough reason to give up personal biometric data," Kendall said. "This issue will gain scrutiny as retailers make more use of big data analytics to collect, combine, interrogate and use information about their customers."
Malaysia's overall Unisys Security Index
"The results show that Malaysians are discriminating about the use of their biometric data in airports and are wary if the use is not directly linked to strengthening a security-related initiative," he said.
Kendall said that the overall Unisys Security Index for Malaysia in 2014 is 198 out of 300, up 31 points compared to the last survey in 2013 - the largest increase of the 12 countries surveyed. "This places Malaysians as 'seriously concerned' and is the second highest index globally, behind only Mexico."
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