Organisations must continue to improve transparency and accountability as ICO survey shows most UK citizens still don’t trust organisations with their data

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Organisations must continue to improve transparency and accountability as ICO survey shows most UK citizens still don’t trust organisations with their data

The ICO’s Information Commissioner is reminding organisations to be transparent with people’s personal data, after a survey revealed trust and confidence in how organisations handle personal data is still low, despite an improvement across sectors.

One year on since the original benchmark research, the ICO has conducted another round of public research and the full report can be found here.                               

The research found that one in three people (34%) have trust and confidence in companies and organisations storing and using their personal information. This is up from one in five people in 2017 (21%).

Trust and confidence is lowest amongst social media companies, with only one in seven (15%) people stating that they have trust and confidence in them.

Elizabeth Denham, Information Commissioner, said:

“Across the world people have woken up to the importance of personal data and how it’s used. Personal data has become the currency by which society does business, but advances in technology should not mean organisations racing ahead of people’s rights. Individuals should be the ones in control and organisations must demonstrate their accountability to the public.”

She added:

“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. 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.”

Other statistics from the ICO survey show a significant increase in the proportion of respondents stating they would get advice and/or information from the ICO (33%), a 15% point increase from 2016.

The ICO launched its long term public information campaign ‘Your Data Matters’ to coincide with the new Data Protection Act in May 2018. This campaign and its fingerprint characters will help increase the public’s awareness of their rights and also the obligations that those holding it have.

The survey was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the ICO and is designed as benchmark measurement for the ICO’s Information Rights Strategic Plan 2017-2021. One of the ICO’s main strategic goals over the next four years is to increase the UK public’s trust and confidence in how data is used and made available.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • Nearly four in five people (78%) felt that if a company/organisation that they used was affected by a data breach and their information was lost or stolen, the company holding the data should be held responsible.
  • 51% of people are concerned about automated decision making.
  • The public’s biggest concern when companies and organisations use their personal information is ‘personal information being stolen by criminals’.
  • The proportion of people stating that they or a close friend or family member have heard about a data breach has risen slightly.
  • There has been an increase from 10% to 18% of adults that feel they have a good understanding of how their personal data is used and made available by companies and organisations in the UK.

The survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive between 23-25th July 2018 among a nationally representative sample of 2,131 UK adults aged 18+.

Harris Interactive is a full-service, digital market research agency.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is the UK’s independent regulator for data protection and information rights law, upholding information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
  2. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA2018), the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR).
  3. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new data protection law which applies in the UK from 25 May 2018. Its provisions are included in the Data Protection Act 2018. The Act also includes measures related to wider data protection reforms in areas not covered by the GDPR, such as law enforcement and security. The UK’s decision to leave the EU will not affect the commencement of the GDPR.
  4. However, due to the timing of certain incidents in this investigation, civil monetary penalties have to be issued under the previous legislation, the Data Protection Act 1998. The maximum financial penalty in civil cases under former laws is £500,000.
  5. Under past and current law, the ICO can take action to change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information. This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit.
  6. Since 25 May 2018, the ICO has the power to impose a civil monetary penalty (CMP) on a data controller of up to £17million (20m Euro) or 4% of global turnover.
  7. The GDPR and the DPA2018 gave the ICO new strengthened powers, some of which, such as assessment notices can be used for this investigation because certain powers can be used as soon as the GDPR comes into force.
  8. The data protection principles in the GDPR evolved from the original DPA, and set out the main responsibilities for organisations. Article 5 of the GDPR requires that personal data shall be:
    • Processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner in relation to individuals;
    • Collected for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes and not further processed in a manner that is incompatible with those purposes;
    • Adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary in relation to the purposes for which they are processed;
    • Accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date
    • Kept in a form which permits identification of data subjects for no longer than is necessary; and
    • Processed using appropriate technical or organisational measures in a manner that ensures appropriate security of the personal data.”
    • Article 5(2) requires that “the controller shall be responsible for, and be able to demonstrate, compliance with the principles.”
  9. Civil Monetary Penalties (CMPs) under past and current law are subject to a right of appeal to the (First-tier Tribunal) General Regulatory Chamber against the imposition of the monetary penalty and/or the amount of the penalty specified in the monetary penalty notice. 
  10. Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by ICO.
  11. To report a concern to the ICO go to

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