Businesses are collecting more information about individuals than ever, but almost two thirds of people aren’t aware what data about them is being collected or don’t know it’s being collected at all.

That’s according to a Deloitte report, Data Nation 2013: Balancing growth and responsibility, which examined British people’s attitudes to data collection by both public and private sectors. It found that just 35 per cent of people are fully aware about how their information is collected and used by businesses, representing a ten per cent decline compared with last year.
The research, carried out by Ipsos MORI on behalf of Deloitte, suggests that the collection of new types of data from sources including smartphones and social media is to blame for the decline in awareness of about how the enterprise uses data in attempt to personalise offers and services.
“Companies are collecting more data and combining increasing varieties of information, revealing relationships that are extraordinarily valuable to businesses,” said the report.
“However, people’s level of awareness is not keeping up with the new ways that data is collected and used.

The scale of data collection or the relationships that can be determined from it are not always adequately explained to the people who feature in the data.”
Perhaps worryingly, it’s those who generate the most data and leave the biggest digital trails – the so-called Generation Y (18-34 year olds) and Generation Z (15-17 year olds) – who have the least idea about how it’s collected and used.

Almost one in three individuals in these age groups believe organisations collect little or no data about them, despite use of items and services such as social network accounts, credit cards and online shopping.
Much of this is down to users ignoring privacy policies that explain how their data is collected, with 57 per cent of internet users admitting they ignore notices about cookies or that they don’t even see them.

Even for those who do read privacy policies, it’s unlikely that they’ll take all the information in, with Deloitte’s research suggesting the average privacy policy takes 25 minutes to read, which would require an average of 31 hours reading time for a year on the web.

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