Businesses should do more to inform consumers about the way their personal data is being shared, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has warned, as newly released figures show the majority of people are concerned about organisations not keeping customers’ details secure.
According to the ICO’s Annual Track survey, 77 per cent of consumers are very or fairly concerned that organisations are “not collecting and keeping personal details secure” while 67 per cent believe companies are requesting unnecessary data or collecting details they do not need.
Meanwhile, 57 per cent of those queried by the ICO expressed concerns over how organisations are perceived to hold on to their personal data for much longer than is required and 85 per cent are concerned about how their personal information is passed or sold to other organisations
“While the vast majority of companies are meeting the letter of the law, figures released today show that most people remain concerned about how their information is being shared. This situation is not good for consumers, or for businesses,” said Graham.
To address concerns over data sharing, the ICO has launched its corporate plan, setting out what it calls “a clear course for changing times” between 2015 and 2018.
Key priority areas outlined by the ICO include ensuring open data and big data are not abusing consumer rights, developing and promoting an ICO privacy seal scheme as a means of demonstrating a commitment to good data protection practices, and preparing for changes set out by the EU data protection framework.
“We are set for a new data protection framework in the next three years, but there are still basic things that organisations can be doing today, not only to comply with the current legislation, but also to prepare for the future regulatory landscape,” said Graham, who also warned businesses that they need to ensure they get the basics of privacy right.
“Businesses should take the results of our survey as a prompt to address consumers’ concerns and provide clearer information to explain when people’s details will be shared and with whom. Getting these basics right today will not only improve consumer trust, but also help a business along the road to future compliance,” he said.
However, he admitted that the ICO and businesses could face challenges ahead.
“The ICO has to find the right balance of the public interest – between openness to the outside and necessary frankness inside organisations,” he said.
“These decisions are not straightforward and are sometimes controversial, but as guardians of the public interest we are properly accountable to Parliament and the courts,” Graham concluded.
The ICO is increasingly having to examine the latest developments surrounding connected devices and privacy as technology use becomes prevalent in many aspects of everyday lives. The ICO has already set out plans to examine the use of connected medical devices in the healthcare sector.
Emerging surveillance technology including drones and wearable video cameras must be used by the authorities only when necessary and in a proportionate manner, the ICO has also previously warned.