UAE consumers conflicted over privacy and security priorities

Sunday 22 May 2016
Mike Convertino, CISO and VP, Information Security at F5 Networks

Dubai - MENA Herald: An EMEA-wide study commissioned by F5 Networks has revealed that whilst United Arab Emirates (UAE) consumers have no confidence in some organisations to keep their data safe, many are willing to share their personal information in return for using a service for free.
The study, conducted by Opinium Research, surveyed over 1,000 consumers across the UAE, exploring their attitudes towards data security and handling1.
Fear of the known
Sharing data with private companies left more than half (58 per cent) of UAE consumers concerned that their data would get into the wrong hands, followed closely by their privacy being compromised (54 per cent). Social media brands and marketing companies were the least trusted, with 66 per cent and 62 per cent respectively stating they do not trust either with their personal data at all. Only 27 per cent were confident that they could protect consumer data effectively from hackers.
But for some, these fears were overlooked if it meant they could use a company’s services for free. Over half of UAE consumers were willing to share their date of birth (51 per cent), and fewer their marital status (45 per cent) and personal interests (35 per cent). In the UAE, 37 per cent would share their shopping habits and their mobile number, which is one of the highest percentages in EMEA.
Indeed, UAE consumers were consistently more willing to give up their data compared to their European counterparts; only 11 per cent in the UAE stated they would not give up their data at all compared to 33 per cent in the UK.
With trust comes expectation
While consumers in the UAE regarded banks as the most trustworthy companies (84 per cent), there remains dissatisfaction in the methods used to protect their data. Consumers believed that banks (86 per cent), public sector and government (81 per cent), insurance (78 per cent) and healthcare (76 per cent), needed to field better authentication capabilities to achieve greater security.
Across EMEA, 88% of consumers felt strongly that organisations should improve authentication for greater security.
“There are clear differences in the type of companies that consumers trust with their data,” Mike Convertino, CISO and VP, Information Security at F5 Networks commented. “More traditional players such as banks are by far considered the most trustworthy but interestingly, we share the most information with social media channels despite the fact that we trust these companies the least to keep our data safe. Regardless of the industry, any consumer facing organisation needs to ensure that its protection is in line with its customers increasing demands. As we all become more aware of the risks, it becomes even more important to get a security and data protection infrastructure – technology, education and processes - in place that is stringent enough to protect against threats, but does not harm the customer experience.”
The Debate: Privacy or Protection?
In the wake of the Apple and FBI debate over smartphone unlocking, 43 per cent of consumers agree with the statement that technology organisations should prioritise national security over consumer privacy and give government agencies access to locked devices. The responsibility for protecting consumers against cyber terrorist threats is also up for debate. Over a quarter (27 per cent) of consumers believe that we should be responsible for protecting ourselves, whilst close twice as many (49 per cent) felt that it was the job of the government of their country to protect its citizens.75 per cent of surveyed consumers said they were worried about cyber terrorism in the UAE.

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