ICO admits awareness failings as only 1% of public have heard of it

DataIQ News

The Information Commissioner's Office has admitted it still has "a great deal of work to do" to engage with the public after its own research found that just 1%  the UK public are aware the regulator actually exists.

The study, carried out by ComRes, asked consumers who they would go to for advice on protecting their data, and discovered that almost half (45%) of the respondents said they simply do not know.

Some 35% named the Citizens Advice Bureau, 15% said they would search online, and 13% would ask a lawyer; only only 1% said the ICO. The regulator conceded that “new and novel ways are needed” to raise public awareness of its role.

Revealing the findings of the pan-European research, Commissioner Christopher Graham said the main demands from consumers were more control over personal data, ensuring their data is securely held and a better understanding of how their data is used and the reasons for sharing it.

He urged all European regulators to raise awareness and enforce consumers’ rights now, not wait for EU General Data Protection Regulation to come into force, which he warned could take years.

But the study also found a major discrepancy between what data people say they want collected, shared and used by organisations compared to their actual behaviour.

Because the public often do not have the information they need to make decisions, they find their general concerns over data are often “overridden by their more immediate interests”, it explained.

Over half of EU respondents to the survey said they provide the minimum information required online while 89% said they avoid disclosing personal data on the web.

Graham suggested that this indicates be that some consumers “want their cut” when their personal data is being monetised. Moving forward, the ICO urged firms to make it easier for consumers to opt out of data collection, ensue they tell customers who data is shared with and give people a range of options, not just a choice between "yes" or "no".