Individual customer data shared over 100,000 times

Shoppers-out-in-Londons-O-007The vast majority of consumers are completely in the dark about how many organisations hold sensitive data about them, according to a new study which suggests that, for any given adult, there are at least 100,000 copies of personal data residing on physical devices and cloud storage platforms.
The research, commissioned by Ground Labs, asked how many organisations survey participants believed held their personal data.
The majority (84%) guessed at fewer than 20; almost a third (28%) guessed that fewer than ten organisations hold sensitive data about them.
However, once presented with a list of 50 online services and retailers, two out of five customers calculated that the reality was significantly higher than their original estimate. This was based on their knowledge of interactions in the past 12 months alone.
The survey only offered 50 examples across the many thousands of organisations currently in receipt of customer data – from airlines and retailers to online services and utility companies.
Ground Labs VP EMEA John Cassidy said: “Unless customers have an accurate idea of who has access to their data, they are unable to take the precautions necessary to protect themselves online. We only asked people to pick from fifty of the biggest online companies, in reality, the number of organisations who have access to any one individual’s data is much, much higher than our survey suggests.”
According to Ground Labs, the total number of companies you interact with is simply a starting point. Automatic backups, log files and emails, plus companies which legally share information with third parties can generate hundreds and thousands of potential copies of your data both on and offline. On top of this, many companies will keep records of former customers for months or even years.
Cassidy added: “A conservative estimate would suggest that for any given adult, hundreds of thousands of copies of personal data reside on physical devices and cloud storage platforms both in and outside of the UK. Most people are unaware of the multiplying effect when dealing with so many service providers and so the responsibility must fall on companies to protect this sensitive data.”

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