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UK consumers do not trust organisations with data, says survey

Members of the public say the government has most responsibility for educating them about how to protect and control personal data, finds a Digital Catapult survey

The government has the most responsibility for educating people about how to protect and control personal data. And the public sector is most trusted with personal data.

These were among the findings of a survey carried out by the Digital Catapult organisation set up in 2013 by Innovate UK, which reports to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The report's publication follows on the heels of the launch of an inquiry into the promise and privacy pitfalls of big data by the House of Commons select committee on Science and Technology.

The Digital Catapult survey’s findings, embodied in a report – Trust in personal data: A UK review – were that most British consumers do not trust organisations with their data and do not appreciate the benefits of sharing personal data.

The survey, of 4,005 consumers aged 18-64, was carried out during the first quarter of 2015. It found 31.5% considered the government responsible for educating the public about data protection – just ahead of those who thought individuals were responsible (30.3%).

Some 94% of those questioned would like to take more control of the data they share, how they share it and what they get for it; 65% were unsure whether their data was being shared without their consent; and a similar 66% admitted they were personally affected by use of their data. Data, the research suggests, matters.

The report’s authors said: “What is abundantly clear from this study is that respondents do not believe they benefit from sharing personal data with organisations. Instead, they believe it is only the organisations that are gaining from their data.”

Personal data and profit

Nearly 80% of respondents believe the primary use of personal data is for the economic gain of companies and other organisations. Only 21% said monetary gain would convince them to share their own data.

Private-sector companies are less trusted than the public sector with personal data. Some 44% said they trusted the public sector, while 30% believe the retail sector abuses personal data the most.

The authors said: “ Financial services came second only on both trust and benefits. This is undoubtedly a vertical maligned in the media – and one which has suffered a fall in consumer trust over the last few years. Yet financial services, with its continued investment into data-reliant services such as online and mobile banking and contactless payments, is a leader in trust in the use of personal data.”

Read more about personal data protection

Sue Daley, head of programme, big data, cloud and mobile at IT suppliers' organisation TechUK said: “These findings demonstrate just how important it is that people understand who has access to their data and how it is used. Our digital future will only be fully realised if consumers feel confident to share their data.”

The report’s authors conclude: “We are asking the public to do something they are entirely unused to – sharing private, and often valuable, information. To build trust, it is imperative that organisations are open and transparent about how that data is being used, when, why and what the impact will be. Without trust, there is no sharing of data and the UK and its economy will fall behind in the race to maximise the potential of digital. We must act now.”

Read more on Privacy and data protection

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Those findings are in accordance with the fact that encryption is more popular than ever. There's a reason why people are moving from WhatsApp and Google Hangouts to secure messengers like Threema and Wickr. The reason is a (justified) lack of trust.
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Can't say that I blame them. A healthy dose of skepticism is a good thing when it comes to data security. The only thing that I disagree with is the idea that our governments should protect and educate us. The necessary information should be available, but we need to educate and look out for ourselves.
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