Would you pay to protect your data online?

Companies must work harder to protect personal data, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has warned after a study found people are ready to pay to ensure their information is safe online.

The research, conducted by YouGov in partnership with encryption specialist CloudMask, found that almost a third (32 per cent) of respondents would fork out to protect their personal details.

The news comes after a spate of high-profile hacks on the likes of Sony Pictures, US retailer Target and chef Jamie Oliver's website suggest firms are unable to defend their users' details adequately.

However, the ICO said firms are still primarily responsible for making sure the data they hold on employees and customers won't be put at risk.

Garreth Cameron, group manager of business and industry at the UK watchdog, said: "It is still ultimately the responsibility of the businesses who hold that data to make sure they follow the laws around data protection.

"Businesses should be doing everything they can to keep information safe by investing in consumer privacy online, both in terms of education, increased protection and good practice."

Around half the respondents were unwilling to shell out to protect their data, and 61 per cent of them agreed with the ICO that businesses must make the most effort to safeguard their information.

But CloudMask pointed to events like The Fappening, in which Hollywood celebrities had nude pictures leaked from Apple's iCloud, as catalysts for people wanting to protect their own data.

CEO Wael Aggan said: "High-profile data breaches, including celebrities' nude photographs being pasted over the internet, credit card details being hacked and governments gaining permission to access Google and Microsoft customer data is forcing consumers to take more control of their privacy."

He added: "Businesses need to offer better protection and if consumers don't want to pay for it, it's still their right to keep their data private. This shouldn't always have to be at their cost."