Assessing the Public Perception of Security and Privacy

Impatient woman in airport security line


Those responsible for planning or implementing counter terrorism policy have to make difficult decisions and impose security measures to mitigate likely risks arising from a particular threat. However, they often do so in the face of extensive uncertainty regarding public reactions to these measures, which may affect civil liberties, privacy and human rights and can create more inconvenience for citizens, who are ultimately the 'consumers' of security.

Some examples include:

  • the sharing of personal data between Europe and the United States as part of the Passenger Name Record (PNR) agreements
  • the use of 'stop and search' powers under Section 44 of the UK Anti Terrorism Act of 2000 and
  • the imposition of requirements for air passengers to remove shoes in UK airports in 2006


RAND Europe is a partner in PACT (Public Perception of Security and Privacy: Assessing Knowledge, Collecting Evidence, Translating Research into Action), a European Commission 7th Framework Programme (FP7) project.

PACT is a 3-year collaborative project, which aims to:

  1. assess existing knowledge about the relationship between security and privacy and the role played by trust and concern;
  2. collect empirical evidence through a pan-European survey on the public perception of the relation between privacy, fundamental rights, and security;
  3. analyse the main factors that affect public assessment of the security and privacy implications of given security intervention.

On the basis of such an investigation, the project will develop and validate:

  • a Privacy Reference Framework for Security Technology, an evidence-based framework for incorporating privacy, ethical, and social considerations into security policies; and
  • a prototype Decision Support System, which may also help decision-makers to evaluate pros and cons of specific security investments also on the basis of the societal perception of privacy and liberty.


RAND Europe is leading the design and analysis of a large-scale survey that aims to collect responses from 27,000 participants across the EU member states using face-to-face interviews and internet surveys. The survey questionnaire involves asking participants' preferences in real-life situations where different factors related to privacy and security may arise.

The design of the scenarios in each real-life situation is based on stated choice methods. The objective of this part of the research programme, through the analysis of the stated choice data, is to examine the importance of different factors in individuals' preferences and quantitatively measure preferences across privacy and security. Results will be reported both as national outcomes and, where appropriate, by comparison to other countries.

Research Team

Neil Robinson, Co-Principal Investigator
Dimitris Potoglou, Co-Principal Investigator
Matt Bassford
Peter Burge
Avantika Chilkoti
Andrew Daly
Chong Woo Kim
Svitlana Kobzar
Sunil Patil
Bhanu Patruni
Charlene Rohr