UK citizens blind to how their data is used by organisations

UK citizens are blind to the true use of their data. According to a Civica report, 30% of citizens believe they always own their data even if they give it away, and only half (51%) of UK citizens know that they can request the data that a company holds on them at any time (subject access requests). Shockingly, 65% believe their personal information is being shared without their knowledge.

Despite government and regulatory attempts to put data back into the hands of the citizen, the research found that only 12% of UK citizens are fully aware of what the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) means, even though it will have a significant impact on how they interact with organisations. Only 18% of 16-24 year olds are very aware of what the GDPR is, despite being the most prolific internet users and generators of data.

>See also: GDPR from a consumer perspective

However, that doesn’t mean citizens aren’t intrigued to know what data organisations hold on them. In fact, 53% say they are more likely to ask for information a company holds on them (subject access requests) once it becomes free to do so when the GDPR comes into force.

Whilst this is a positive step for consumers, organisations must prepare for the impact this will have on their firms regarding their ability to respond in time and efficiently. Without a clear and holistic view of this, organisations may struggle to effectively respond to potentially increasing requests for data, putting a huge strain on resources.

One point is clear throughout the research: almost half (48%) agree that data sharing will lead to better services. And trust is a major factor when it comes to what people are willing to share.

More than half (53%) would trust organisations more if they were clear what personal data they stored on them and how they use it. But many are still wary over the recent public security attacks, with the main issues citizens have about sharing their data being the security of how it’s held (61%) and the lack of control they have (37%).

Consumer trust is paramount

The research found that 65% think their personal information is being shared without their knowledge. However, public services are trusted more than many private sector organisations.

In fact, UK consumers stated that healthcare organisations such as hospitals and GPs are the most transparent when it comes to informing citizens how their data will be used, whereas 40% claimed that retailers are rarely or never transparent about their use of consumers’ personal data.

>See also: The true value of data in the smart home’s future

Chris Doutney, executive director, Digital, explains: “Every day, all over the world, billions of people use mobile devices to take photos, shop online and use apps. But personal data breaches are too often making headlines. GDPR aims to give control of data back to citizens, so it’s of great concern that most don’t know what it is. For the new legislation to be effective – and give citizens power over their data – we need to start educating them on the legislation now. If the UK public doesn’t understand how their data is being used, or the power they will now hold to stop unwanted use of personal data, then it’s a huge opportunity missed.”

“Getting ready for GDPR won’t be easy, but it’s a challenge we must all be prepared for. The businesses that embrace change and look beyond compliance to create a data driven approach to customer service and interaction will be the ones that benefit the most.”

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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