More emphasis is needed from public-sector organisations to educate and reassure people that their data is secure, according to a report from outsourcer Civica.
In the report, Enabling a New World of Public Service Delivery, the company urges government bodies to make better use of their data. But it emphasises that the public sector should also take responsibility for communicating and educating the public over their (not unjustifiable) misgivings around government sharing data.
According to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) 85 per cent of people are concerned about how their personal information, held by public sector bodies, is passed on or sold to other organisations. Symantec’s 2015 ‘State of Privacy’ report, meanwhile, found that half of UK citizens were worried their data was not safe.
UK citizens have good reason to be fearful. Computing documented the top-10 worst-ever government data breaches a few weeks ago, drawn from a list so long that dozens of sizeable data breaches had to be cut from the shortlist.
Despite this, Civica chief technology officer John Hood said that public sector organisations needed to make people more aware that their data was secure. “Simply saying ‘we use firewalls’ is no longer sufficient,” he said.
“Policymakers will only win the public’s permission to remain the custodians of their data by showing the length public service organisations go in order to safeguard privacy and prevent data breaches,” he added.
Civica urged public sector organisations to ensure that citizens can consume services regardless of the device or channel they prefer to use. “It’s the information delivery that matters, to both consumers and public sector organisation employees”.
But with the vast majority of data breaches in the public sector occurring as a result of human error, the general public may be less keen on public sector organisations enabling their employees to have access to sensitive information on-the-go, too.
Chris White, CIO of law firm Clyde & Co, said that he didn’t care what devices employees used in the workplace as long as they use tools to securely access the system. 
“This same agnostic approach will one day inform the way public services adapt their infrastructure to meet employee and citizen demands. Security needs to be a key priority, with flexibility for each device requirement, and an end-goal of providing information securely,” he said.

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