Survey: Consumers don't trust banks to keep their data secure

Unisys survey shows lack of consumer confidence in financial institutions to protect sensitive data as well as increased willingness to use biometrics technology

A recent survey by Unisys Corp. of American consumers showed that many aren't confident financial institutions can protect their personal data and more are open to using biometrics technology in banks to verify their identity.

Only 29% of the 1,005 consumers surveyed in September said they fully trust financial institutions to secure their sensitive information, according to the Unisys Security Index. The percentage was only slightly better than the 22% who said they're confident that local and national government agencies can protect sensitive data.

Sixty-four percent of those surveyed said they're seriously concerned about debit card and credit card fraud and 65% reported concern about unauthorized access or misuse of personal information.

"It really does speak to some of the breaches you're reading in the press, especially in the area of credit card transactions. Most Americans are tuned into that," said Sid Pearl, director of solutions management for risk intelligence at Blue Bell, Pa.-based Unisys.

The study, released Tuesday, also showed that consumers are more willing to provide biometric data to financial institutions and merchants to verify their identity. Ninety-three percent said they would be willing to use fingerprint scans, a 20% increase from a Unisys consumer survey last November. Seventy-nine percent would use iris recognition, 17% more from last year.

"Some of that is driven by technology," Pearl said. "There are different technologies out there that don't require a full fingerprint and could be swipe technology. It has come a long way, which helps grow confidence."

Some banks in the U.S. have been using biometrics internally and are exploring the possibility of extending it to their customers, but cost and deployment issues are complicated, he said.

Earlier this year, the Financial Services Technology Consortium's (FSTC) launched a biometrics initiative that aims to provide banks with a better understanding of the current state of biometrics technology and how it could help thwart fraud. The results of the first phase of the project are scheduled for completion this month.

As for the lack of consumer confidence in banks' ability to keep data secure, financial institutions know they have work to do, Pearl said: "They're working diligently to address this. They realize they need to demonstrate to consumers that they're taking the necessary steps to protect their information."

The Unisys Security Index is a biannual study that queries consumers on their feelings about a broad range of security issues, from national and personal safety to financial and Internet safety. Financial security was the top concern in Unisys' March survey, but consumers in the latest study were more worried about national security, including the threat of a H1N1 flu outbreak.

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