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Summary of Key Findings  Foreword




The objective of the survey reported in this paper was to examine citizen’s trust in the authorities responsible for Identity Management Systems in the context of an EU-wide eID scheme. In light of the EU desire to facilitate a high level of interconnection and to use new identity management technologies, focus was placed on the extent to which citizens trust the authorities to exchange data in an appropriate manner across government departments, between governments and commerce and across European countries.  


The survey forms part of a research effort to deepen understanding of the social and cultural questions associated with interoperable ID systems. Whilst many of the EU projects in the interoperability domain tend to privilege the engineering and legal perspectives for harmonising and interoperating identity management systems, the place of the citizen’s feelings and perceptions has not been sufficiently considered. This study has attempted a first step in this direction. 


Drawing on the literature on institutional-based trust, a set of relevant constructs were identified and used as the basis for constructing a further set of statements on which the survey’s respondents indicated their level of agreement.  These were grouped into three broad categories of (1) sources of trust; (2) levels of trust; and (3) consequences of trust.  The constructs for assessing trust in the survey relate to the citizen’s perceptions of the institutional environment surrounding the issuance and management of an eID card scheme.  


A web-based survey was translated into 8 European languages and was made available online over a period of one month in June 2006. Respondents of the survey were asked to rate their agreement with a set of 32 statements using a Likert scale from 1 (=strongly agree) to 7 (=strongly disagree). Overall there were 1,906 valid responses to the survey with respondents from 23 out of the 25 EU countries. A limitation of the survey was, however, that the response rate from some countries was very low. In this respect, the survey cannot be said to represent European citizens as such. In addition, this biased response rate prevented a valid comparison across countries.  


Findings arising from the analysis of the survey point to an overall negative perception of the ID authorities by EU citizens. The vast majority of the respondents do not trust the institutions; they are seriously critical about the competence of the authorities, and are dubious about their ability to handle personal data. Moreover, they are suspicious of the authorities misusing their identity data. These negative attitudes of citizens hold important implications for any future attempts at implementing eID cards, as these perceptions may well be translated into consequent behaviour, namely, resistance to use or non-use.  



Further analysis of the survey results point to the role of demographic characteristics. It was found that gender features strongly in citizens’ perception of trust; in general, male respondents were more negative in their views. In the questions about the legal framework, the difference was 20 percent between the number of “strongly disagree” answers for the groups of women and men respectively. The age group of respondents has shown a strong effect on responses. Younger respondents generally tended to exhibit more openness towards the new ID card and less criticism towards the ID authorities. Older respondents form a special group, especially the age group 40 and 54, which came out as the most negative in all questions. Nevertheless, extensive use of the Internet tends to lower perceptions of strong disagreement. Gender and age group are independent variables that cannot be manipulated, nevertheless implications of the findings related to these variables suggest practical considerations if targeted intervention to influence public opinion is to be undertaken.


Similar implications may be drawn from the systematic comparison of response means across five European regions. Findings indicate that respondents from UK and Ireland were the most negative in almost all attitudinal questions. This may be linked with the particular ID policy and practice mainly, the lack of ID cards in these countries and the public debates currently taking place in the UK. On the other hand, Germany, Austria, Finland and the Scandinavian countries were quite close to the mean of the responses from UK & Ireland in all cases. Since these were the two biggest groups, the overall mean of the answers was close to the mean in the above two regions. At the same time, respondents from Central and Eastern Europe were at the other end of the attitudinal scale. For these countries responses to most of the questions were the most positive. Respondents from this region were less critical about the ID authorities in general. The southern part of Europe shows the most diverse structure of answers, the standard deviation was the highest here. In other words, the answers show the biggest variance in these countries.  


Within the group of respondents from UK and Ireland the strongest negative attitude is found in the judgement of ability to assess the benefits and risks when giving personal data to ID authorities. These respondents did not believe that the companies involved in the ID card project will be able to protect the citizens´ personal data. Thus, the general level of institutional trust was very low in this region. Central and Eastern Europe, in contrast, presented the highest level of acceptance. Respondents from this region appear much less worried about the way in which their personal ID data will be managed.  










Summary of Key Findings  fidis-wp4-del4.5.a_survey_on_EU_citizens_trust_04.sxw  Reference
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