75% don’t trust data to web firms

Nearly three-quarters of individuals believe online firms are not keeping their personal details secure, according to the data watchdog, which says that although firms are ‘waking up’ to their obligations under the Data Protection Act, they are not putting it to good use.
New figures released by the Information Commissioner’s Office also show that nearly three-quarters of businesses surveyed now know that the Act requires them to keep personal information secure – up 26% on last year’s figure.
Despite this, public confidence has fallen – less than half of individuals surveyed believe that organisations process their data in a fair and proper manner. Concern is particularly high in relation to web-based businesses.
In addition, the number of data security breaches in the private sector continues to rise – 58% more breaches have been reported to the ICO so far in 2011/12 than in the same period last year.
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said: “I’m encouraged that the private sector is waking up to its data protection responsibilities, with unprompted awareness of the Act’s principles higher than ever. However, the sector does not seem to be putting its knowledge to good use.
“The fact is that security breaches in the private sector are on the rise, and public confidence in good information handling is declining. Businesses seem to know what they need to do – now they just need to get on with doing it. It’s not just the threat of a £500,000 fine that should provide the incentive. Companies need to consider the damage that can be done to a brand’s reputation when data is not handled properly. Customers will turn away from brands that let them down.”
The ICO’s annual track survey looks at information rights issues across the board. Other figures show that awareness of citizens’ rights under the Freedom of Information Act is increasing.
More than nine out of ten public authorities surveyed are aware that individuals have a right to see information. The vast majority – 84% – also agreed that the Act is needed. Despite unprompted awareness of the Act among individuals being higher than ever, at 24%, respondents were sceptical that the information they’d like to see is actually being made public. Just half of those surveyed are satisfied that information is readily available and accessible.
Other figures show that recognition of the ICO’s role as the enforcer of the Data Protection Act is now at 70% – the highest awareness level since the question was introduced to the annual survey in 2004. This increase is partly driven by the private sector; 53% of businesses surveyed now have a clear understanding of the ICO’s role in this area compared with 20% last year.
Graham added: “This survey highlights the increasing importance of accountability and transparency, and the public’s right to know. Almost all public authorities can see the clear benefits of having freedom of information laws. But more needs to be done to make sure that the right information is being made available since only half of citizens surveyed feel they have easy access to the information they want.”

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