Consumers under-estimate ripple effect of data sharing

DataIQ News

The number of copies of personal information held by organisations is being severely under-estimated by UK consumers, with 84% guessing unprompted that fewer than 20 companies hold their data. According to a survey by sensitive data experts Ground Labs, 28% thought the number of copies held was under ten.

As part of the study, consumers were offered a pick list of online services and retailers, ranging from airlines to utilities. Although restricted to just 50 leading names, two out of five respondents significantluy revised their estimate upwards based on interactions with companies on the list over the last 12 months when they might have shared their personal information.

Commenting on the findings, John Cassidy, VP EMEA, Ground Labs, said“ Customers dramatically underestimate how many companies have access to their information, as illustrated by our survey. We only asked people to pick from fifty of the biggest online companies. In reality, the number of organisations who have access to any one individual’s data is much, much higher than our survey suggests.”

He pointed out that legal data sharing with third parties, as well as automatic backups, log files and emails, can potentially generate thousands of copies of data which is routinely kept for years. That creates a data breach risk within those organisations unless they are able to identify and properly protect the personal information involved.

Cassidy added:  “A conservative estimate would suggest that for any given adult, hundreds of thousands of copies of personal data reside on physical devices and cloud storage platforms both in and outside of the UK.  Most people are unaware of the multiplying effect when dealing with so many service providers and so the responsibility must fall on companies to protect this sensitive data.”

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