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Citizens mixed on using personal data for a rapid response government

By Rob Starr, Content Manager,

When Accenture recently  asked 500 DC, MD and VA residents whether they’d be willing to share personal information, such as their cellphone number, fingerprints or iris scans, in exchange for improved, streamlined government service, more than half of all citizens rejected iris scans despite the availability of photographs on sites like Facebook and Instagram. Not surprisingly, Millennials stand out in their willingness to share their cell phone numbers in exchange for improved, streamlined government service.

Chris Zinner, managing director, who leads Accenture’s digital work with the US federal government, helped us understand the numbers and implications from the #AFSFedPulse survey.

What’s the premise behind how sharing more personal information translates into better government services?

We know that in the on-demand era, citizens are accustomed to quick and convenient service, and that many federal agencies are struggling to find more efficient ways to reach citizens at a time and place that is convenient to them, yet secure. We thought it would be an interesting snapshot to look at the ways people readily share information through social media channels to FedPulse_PersonalData_federal emplolyeesdetermine if they would be equally willing to share some level of identification with government in exchange for improved service experiences that are more personalized, yet secure.

Why are digital images such a sticking point?

While we didn’t ask that as a follow up question, we were surprised by that outcome, especially

Chris Zinner

Chris Zinner

given that everyone who has a driver’s license or a passport already has a digital image on file with local, state and federal agencies. There is something personal about a photo that people readily share through social media channels but may feel is inappropriate to share with a federal agency.  Yet for many of the millions of citizens who have “liked” the Facebook page or “follows” the Twitter handle of a government agency and has not explicitly blocked such access, their personal photos are already accessible by government agencies.

What does the rejection of iris scans indicate?

Most people who are familiar with an iris scan most likely associate it with popular culture references from movies or TV as something futuristic or invasive. This is the one area that every generation reached consensus. No one wanted to have an iris scan on file.  Yet, with identity theft on the rise, the ability to prove who you say you are is increasingly important, especially when you also expect information/services on the go, across devices, and without having to spend valuable time authenticating yourself with passwords, pins, and security codes.  Anyone who has enabled Touch ID on an iPhone immediately gets this trade off.FedPulse_PersonalData_all generations

Are there generational divides in the responses?

Yes there are, and most are intuitive. The silent generation is the most likely to provide telephone numbers and the most opposed to iris scans. Not surprising, the ubiquitous cell phone is the most acceptable form of personal data the majority of respondents (67 percent) would share. Millennials stand out in their willingness to share their cell phone numbers: 74% of millennials versus 65% of Gen X versus 56% of Baby Boomers

What are some of the other big takeways?

It is obvious that most in our society today is willing to trade personal information in exchange for some value they realize.  This balance obviously difference from person to person, but societal norms are shaped largely by consumer experiences with commercial providers.  Like water, these “liquid expectations” flow into other facets of our lives – at work as employees, at play with our family and friends.  The question is whether we allow them to flow into our lives as public citizens when we consume government services?  Our position is the eventually yes – albeit, perhaps in fits and starts, depending on continued high profile security breaches of government data and the ability to mitigate the risks and impact of such breaches.

What’s in the future?  

The balance of trading personal information in exchange for value will continue to be stretched, especially in an era of “Living Services”, where brands will use the Internet of Things (IoT) and powerful data analytics to create services that come to life; predicting and reacting to consumers’ changing needs and circumstances.  In other words, branded services that are personalized and change in real-time for every individual wherever they are and whatever they are doing.

Will government embrace living services?  If so, almost certainly far after commercial brands.

Yet, how far off is the day when the IRS provide an opt-in service experience to citizens where – if the citizen that allows employers and banks to share data with the IRS on their behalf – the IRS pre-fills most of their tax return and simply asks the taxpayer to review and correct any errors, saving them significant money and time from having to fill out a return from scratch.  Would citizens trade personal information for such value?  We’ll see – iris scans or not.



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