Unisys Survey: Individuals Open To Sharing Evidence With Police Online


Individuals are more likely than ever before to share information with law enforcement through online platforms, but they want assurances that their information and privacy will be handled with care. According to a new survey from Unisys and YouGov, 90 percent of residents surveyed in several major US cities said they would use online digital media to submit evidence.

The global survey, conducted by research company YouGov, queried a total of nearly 4,000 respondents in 10 cities around the world to gauge their attitudes on a wide range of security-related issues. The U.S. cities covered by the survey were Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Cities outside of the U.S. covered by the survey were Amsterdam, Mexico City, Rome, Sao Paolo, Singapore and Sydney.

“What we’re seeing is that people are comfortable giving information to law enforcement digitally, but they also expect a level of security to come with it and those resources may not always be in place,” said Mark Forman, global head, Unisys Public Sector, in an interview with CivSource. “As we saw with some of the ransomware attacks over the past year, critical systems are vulnerable. Law enforcement and public officials are making efforts to be more proactive but there are still gaps as organizations understand what the vulnerabilities are and what they need to do.”

According to Forman, cities have launched smart cities initiatives and other technology enabled public saftey projects but those are largely one-way, with law enforcement monitoring city activity, rather than working directly in a two-way conversation with locals. As a result, platforms and policies will need to be developed in order to make sure that information is protected when shared with law enforcement and other agencies online.

As law enforcement works through how best to use technology, organizations may do well to study consumer behavior online.  The survey shows that the public views online crime reporting similarly to how they view other online services. Users want a secure transaction that includes transparency about where the information went and that also comes with incident resolution tracking. Respondents also said they would be more likely to report incidents if online platforms for submitting information were available.

Even with positive views of online information sharing, there limitations around what individuals are willing to do to give information to the police. Nearly two-thirds of Americans in the survey would upload evidence about a crime that had just taken place, but only 37 percent would allow police to access their PCs to investigate a crime. Respondents also indicated that they would not be willing to accept more surveillance in exchange for the perception of greater security.

The survey findings indicate how the public views the role of technology in incident response just as many cities and counties are upgrading emergency systems in response to the National Emergency Number Association’s (NENA) NextGen 911 blueprint. The framework outlines steps that public safety organizations should take to upgrade 911 dispatch systems to be able to handle voice, data and video communications. At the federal level, all 50 states have also opted-in to FirstNet a forthcoming voice, data and text network made specifically to help first responders manage communications during crisis events.

“The results of this survey tell us that police and other public safety and service agencies should embrace technologies that enable more communication methods and means with the public,” said Forman. “This can have numerous positive effects, such as improved overall relationships and increased case clearance rates. However, they must be used wisely and with an understanding that public trust will necessarily limit the scope and types of devices that will be acceptable.”

The full survey results are available here.