UK organisations still need to be far more transparent in how they handle consumers’ personal data, with most Brits remaining exasperated about the veil of secrecy which surrounds how their information is collected, stored and used.
So says the latest Annual Information Rights Strategic Plan: Trust and Confidence report from the Information Commissioners Office, designed to “increase the trust the public has in government, public bodies and the private sector in terms of how personal information is used and made available”.
Overall, it found that only just over a quarter (28%) of people said they had high trust and confidence in companies and organisations storing and using their personal information, with slightly more (29%) saying they had low trust and confidence.
Trust and confidence were significantly higher among 18- to 34-year-olds ( 39%) than those aged between 35 and 54 ( 29%) and over 55-years-old ( 18%).
However, over half (54%) of the total sample did not believe that organisations are open and transparent about how they collect and use personal information. A similar proportion (55%) did not think it was easy to find out how their personal data is stored and used by organisations, and nearly three-fifths (58%) claimed it was virtually impossible to find out whether their details are shared with third parties.
Interestingly, those with the lowest level of confidence in organisations’ data practices, cite the sale of their data to third parties as the main reason for their distrust, followed by the threat of data hacking and data leaks.
Among those with a medium level of confidence, hacking tops the list, followed by data being misused, data leaks and third-party data sales.
According to the ICO’s annual report, published this week, the vast majority (46%) of data protection complaints were over subject access requests, followed by disclosure of data (13%) and right to prevent processing (8%).
Even so, when quizzed about which data protection issue is the most pressing, the top concern was that “personal information [is] being used for scams or fraud”.
Worryingly, the study found that half of those people questioned had received more unwanted marketing phone calls – such as those around PPI claims, home improvements or fast food offers – now than they did 12 months ago.
This year, for the first time the study also asked which organisations consumers trust the most.
The NHS topped the pile with 75% of respondents rating the health service high for trust and confidence, with just 7% giving it a net low.
Local GPs also scored highly at 72% positive, followed by the police with 58%, national government organisations with 55%, financial services with 55% and local government with 49%.
They were followed by online retailers (37%), mobile, broadband and utility providers (34%), and social media and messaging platforms (15%).
Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: “We know that when people have trust in how their data is used, they will engage more in data-driven innovations, allowing organisations to maximise impact.
“The research also shows that when individuals become aware of data being misused, lost or stolen their trust in organisations can decrease. To maintain high levels of trust, organisations must maintain high standards in all areas of data protection, from the use of pioneering technology through to the basics of data retention and destruction.”
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