Half of UK consumers say corporate data collection is harmful – survey

A survey commissioned by Big Brother Watch finds that 48% of Brits think collection of personal data by big businesses is harmful

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Half of UK consumers believe that the use of personal data by corporations is harmful, according to a survey commissioned by privacy pressure group Big Brother Watch. 

The survey of global attitudes towards privacy, conducted by opinion pollster Comres, found that 48% of UK respondents believe that "consumers are being harmed by big companies gathering large amounts of personal data for internal use". 

That proportion was the second largest of any country, behind only South Korea, where a series of high profile data breaches have evidently eroded public trust in corporate data protection practices. 

Meanwhile, only 18% of UK consumers believe that the use of personal data can enhance consumer experiences. This was the third lowest proportion among the countries surveyed, above South Korea and Japan. 

Nick Pickles, a spokesman for Big Brother Watch, said the h the fact that regulation has failed to keep pace with the corporate use of personal data. 

"The age of commercial monitoring has moved so rapidly the law and consumer attitudes have struggled to keep up, resulting in the kind of fear that British people have about the harm they may suffer from big businesses," he said. 

Pickles said that the growing number of companies looking to exploit their personal data assets face growing mistrust from consumers. 

Yesterday, banking giant Barclays revealed that it is changing the terms and conditions of its accounts to allow it to resell aggregated, anonymised data about its customers' buying patterns to third parties. 

"Barclays is just the latest company to see its customers as data cash cows and this is reflected in the growing distrust people around the world have in big businesses using their data in a fair and reasonable manner."

Another survey published this week, commissioned by Indian IT services provider Infosys, found that UK consumers are more likely to trust their personal data with some industries than others. 

Nine out of ten (91%) will readily share their personal data with a doctor, compared to 74% who will share with their bank, and 69% with a retailer.