Consumers taking action over “mistrust” of organisations handling personal data

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham

A survey of attitudes towards data protection here in the UK has shown that consumers are taking matters into their own hands in order to protect their personal data. Commissioned by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the UK’s independent data protection regulator, the survey shows that only one-in-four individuals trust businesses with their personal information.

The survey also shows consumers have a clear awareness of the action they can take to protect their own personal data. Seven-in-ten of those questioned regularly check bank and credit card statements for irregular activity, while more than half also keep their computer protected from viruses, shred personal documents, use different passwords for different online services and limit how much information they share on social media.

The survey highlights that, while 53% of people said they trusted High Street banks with their information, this figure drops to 36% for Government departments, 32% for High Street retailers and 22% for Internet brands.

People’s concerns are focused on their information being stolen by criminals, used to make nuisance calls or sold to other companies for marketing purposes.

Taking up the fight

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham stated: “Consumers are taking up the fight to protect their own personal data. We all need the services offered to us by banks, shops and Internet companies, even if we are perhaps not entirely trusting of what they’re doing with our data, and so consumers are taking their own action to respond to that. This ought to be a real wake up call to some sectors. Consumer mistrust is never good for business.”

Graham continued: “What’s more, if these customers’ concerns are well-placed, and organisations are not handling personal data properly, they may be leaving themselves open to significant fines from the regulator. We’ve issued fines of more than £6 million for data protection offences so far, and that’s only going to rise. New rules in place from 2018 give us the power to fine up to 4% of global turnover, which ought to focus the minds of any Boardroom.”

Avoidance of aggressive marketing

The Information Commissioner also explained: “There’s increasing evidence of consumers taking steps to avoid aggressive marketing. Our survey shows that concerns around people’s information being used to market products to them ranks as one of the top consumer worries. We know people are responding to the nuisance of spam calls and texts because we receive a wealth of complaints about them to our office every day. We’ve been able to take action amounting to more than £2 million of fines in the past year. The survey also shows action elsewhere. Notably, a quarter of those people surveyed are using ad blockers when they go online.”

The ICO survey also pinpoints that 75% of individuals think it’s important that data protection is taught in schools, while more than one-in-ten (13%) have requested a copy of their data from organisations.

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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