Protecting your personal information ranked as a top issue
Protecting personal information is now ranked as one of the top three most socially important issues, according to new research published by the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, on 16th November 2005.
Delivering the annual Steele Raymond Lecture (“Taking Information Rights Seriously”) at Bournemouth University , Mr. Thomas highlighted findings from the research, which show that “protecting people's personal information” was ranked behind crime prevention and improving education standards as an issue of concern, alongside the NHS and ahead of equal rights, freedom of speech, national security and environmental issues.
According to the research, four out of five people are concerned or extremely concerned about threats to their health and finances, should their personal information be mishandled. Without prompting, over half (52%) of the respondents are concerned that their personal details may be passed on to unknown organisations. When prompted, over 80% expressed concerns about the use, transfer and security of personal information.
Richard Thomas, Information Commissioner, said, “It may be surprising to some, but it is very significant that people are so concerned about how their personal information is handled. The research shows that respect for their personal information is a high priority, and people worry especially about threats to their health and safety and to their finances. No doubt they are increasingly aware of the dangers of identity theft and the serious consequences if their health, financial and other personal records fall into the wrong hands or are otherwise misused.
“More generally, as Commissioner, I also have to worry about excessive intrusion into personal lives and risks which will be less apparent to the public such as decisions made on inaccurate information or potentially damaging information which is held for too long.
“The Data Protection Act gives people important rights to safeguard their information. The research shows that organisations do recognise, overwhelmingly so, that good data handling makes good business sense. A massive 86% said that good information handling was very important and 70% of organisations said that it improved customer trust, information management and risk management.
It must be in their own self-interest for organisations to stick to the key principles of the Data Protection Act, such as making sure personal information is held securely, that it is accurate and up to date and that it is used for purposes which people have been told about,. Mishandling information leads to an erosion of trust in public authorities and businesses. Only 16% had confidence in how internet sites handle personal information, 20% in retailers and telecoms companies and around 30% in tax and benefits authorities. The NHS did best with a 64% confidence rating.
“Members of the public can also do a lot to protect their own information, by only giving it out if they are sure that a request is genuine and if they know what their information will be used for. People can also take active steps, such as shredding personal documents like bank and credit card statements and bills, and checking statements to ensure that they recognise all the transactions.”
What are your views on what he says?