Jan 8, 2010
The balance between liberty, privacy and security is often polarised around concerns for civil liberties and public safety. To balance these concerns, policymakers need to consider the economic and social consequences of different security options as well as their effectiveness. In particular, they need to know whether individuals are willing to surrender some liberty or privacy in return for security benefits. Research in this domain has been mainly qualitative and as such, simple polling techniques that are likely to lead to unrealistic and unquantifiable responses are not usable for economic analysis. RAND Europe undertook a self-funded initiative to try to understand and quantify the trade-offs that people might make when confronted with real-life choices about privacy, liberty and security. The study used stated preference discrete choice experiments to present respondents with alternative options, each with advantages and disadvantages that they must explicitly trade-off when selecting between options. Respondents could also state where they would prefer the status quo. We examined three scenarios where trade-offs might arise: applying for a passport; travelling on the national rail network; and attending a major public event. Our approach showed that is possible to obtain and quantify the views and preferences of citizens as users of security infrastructure. In particular, stated choice discrete choice experiments provided a refined understanding of the importance people place on a number of factors describing each scenario such as the degree of comfort in providing personal data to obtain a passport or when passing through different types of security checks.