People worried about personal data

Most people are now aware of their right to ask to see information about themselves held by any organisation, but they don't trust organisations to keep such personal data safe, according to a survey by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

Some 87 per cent of those interviewed in the nationwide survey said they understand that right under the Data Protection Act, up from 74 per cent three years ago.

The Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, said: "It is encouraging that so many people are now aware of their rights under the Data Protection Act and are taking the protection of their personal information more seriously."

But the research also showed a marked distrust for organisations and how they handle personal data. According to the survey, nine out of 10 adults think organisations fail to keep personal information secure, with 94 per cent of people believing their information is sold on without permission. Some six out of 10 said they felt like they have lost control over their personal information.

Thomas added: "Organisations also have a responsibility to ensure customer information is protected. High standards of security and records management will ensure that companies and public authorities retain the trust and confidence of those who use their services."

The study also found people in the UK value their personal information above the NHS, national security and the environment.

Thomas called on organisations to protect customers' personal data, as data breaches lead to falling levels of trust - and investigation by the ICO.

Thomas said: "While the majority of organisations process personal information appropriately this research highlights the need for all organisations, large and small, to process customers' information securely. By failing to keep personal information secure, organisations not only risk losing the trust of their customers but they also risk enforcement action by my office."