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Business Finance: It’s time for firms to tackle customers’ data fears, says David Timms

13:10 27 May 2014

David Timms of KPMG.

David Timms of KPMG.

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With technology playing an increasing role in our lives, the issue of who has access to our private data and how to secure it has started to raise concerns with consumers.

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The growing number of high profile hacking incidents is driving consumers to call on policymakers to create a Privacy Charter to dictate what organisations should be allowed to share in terms of personal data online, and what compensation customers should receive if their data is used by third parties.

In a recent survey by KPMG and Censuswide on consumer attitudes to privacy and surveillance, respondents revealed anger at the current legal situation which allows apps and websites access to swathes of their personal data with seeming impunity. The overwhelming majority of those questioned (82%) said it was time for a Privacy Charter.

Current legislation in the UK allows the Information Commissioner, the public body set up to uphold information rights, to impose a fine of up to £500,000 where regulations have been breached. But this system was created in 2010 and consumers are not convinced that businesses are doing enough.

More than four out of five (83%) of the consumers surveyed said it was wrong that their personal data was controlled by third parties and 81% agreed that social media companies such as Facebook and LinkedIn should protect users’ privacy. In addition, 86% said they would like to know exactly who had access to their information and for what purpose and 82% said they should have recourse in law if a company misused their information, including compensation if a company made money from their data.

Our research is a snapshot of 1,000 consumers across the UK, but they are clearly sending out the message that “enough is enough”. Our cyber teams across the country hear regularly of private and public companies, both large and small being hacked, but what we hear less of is the toll this has taken on those people whose data has been stolen.

Most businesses are reliant on IT systems. They store information or connect third parties electronically and rely on their technology systems for logistical, manufacturing or customer-facing processes. But customers are starting to tire of reading about yet another threat to their personal data and it is down to businesses to take the lead through better information security management, before the Government is forced to step in to regulate.

: : David Timms if part of KPMG’s risk consulting team in East Anglia.

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