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ICO: trust grows over use of personal data but remains low

The public's trust over the way organisations use their personal data has grown in the past year, but is "still low", the UK's data protection watchdog has said.07 Sep 2018

Research commissioned by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) found that 34% of people in the UK have "high trust and confidence in companies and organisations storing and using their personal information", up from 21% in 2017.

The survey (23-page / 389KB PDF), of 2,131 adults carried out in July, also found that the proportion of the UK public who said they have no trust or confidence in the storage or use of their data by organisations in 2018 fell to 9% from 14% the previous year.

The introduction of new data protection laws at EU level – the General Data Protection Regulation – and supplementary new rules in the UK in the new Data Protection Act helped to improve the results from the annual tracker exercise, UK information commissioner Elizabeth Denham said.

"It’s certainly positive news that more people now trust organisations with their data and the GDPR and the new Data Protection Act 2018 will have played a part in this," Denham said. "Many businesses, charities, and public bodies have actively taken the time to explain the new rules and have actively taken on board new obligations to protect personal data. However, there is still a long way to go and organisations need to realise that, unless they are trusted to properly look after people’s personal data, they will fail to realise its potential benefits to their business or the wider economy."

According to the survey, the public generally has the greatest trust in the NHS and local doctors over data use, while the police, the government and banks were all deemed more trustworthy with data than online retailers, telecoms providers and social messaging platforms.

Just 18% of the adults surveyed said they have a good understanding of how their personal data is used, although this is up from 10% in 2017. Similarly few respondents (16%) said they believe they have a good understanding of how their data is made available to third parties and the public.

The majority of respondents disagreed with the assertions that businesses and other organisations are open and transparent about how they collect and use personal information, that it is easy to find out how their personal information is stored and used, and that it is easy to find out whether their personal information is being made available to third parties.

The survey also found that telling consumers if they have been impacted by a data breach can help limit the negative impression such an incident could leave on those individuals. According to the survey, 77% of respondents said their trust and confidence in an organisation would be negatively impacted if the organisation was affected by a data breach but did not tell them, compared to 64% in cases where the breach was disclosed to them.

More than half of the respondents said they are concerned about their online activity being tracked (53%), while 74% said they are most concerned about their personal data being stolen by criminals when the data is used by organisations.