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Social Media Week - Social networks are least trusted to keep personal data safe

Social Media Week - Social networks are least trusted to keep personal data safe

Social networking sites are the least trusted sector of all when it comes to looking after personal data, according to the latest research from data security specialist DQM Group.

Overall, public confidence in data security across all sectors has slumped dramatically since last year.

Following numerous high-profile data security breaches over the past two years, the way organisations handle personal data is weighing heavily on the minds of Britons.

Little research work has been done to evaluate the public’s level of trust in different types of organisation, at least specifically in relation to standards around customer data security.  In order to fill this gap, DQM commissioned research which examined the UK public’s different levels of trust in a variety of organisations, both in the private and the public sector. 

Right at the bottom of the trust league comes Social Networking sites with only 15 per cent of people happy to trust them with their personal data.  This compares to 40 per cent the in 2007. Whilst the nature of social networks means that people are voluntarily putting details about themselves into the public domain, this research finding does raise two key issues. 

Firstly, most social networks allow users to dictate different levels of access permission for friends and acquaintances. Does the sector’s low score in the personal data security league mean that these filters are regarded as insufficiently robust.  Also, much of the discussion about monetising social networks in the future centres on serving up personalised adverts to users.  Does the public’s lack of trust regarding personal data security on social networks indicate that such data-based advertising may create a backlash of unease amongst users?

Despite the economic downturn, commercial organisations do not fare too badly, with around half the country happy about data security standards at their bank and building society, two fifths of the population trusting travel companies and credit card issuers, and around a third comfortable with data security at hotels and insurance firms.  Worst performers included local authorities (23 per cent - down from 46 per cent in 2007) and central government departments (19 per cent - down from 45 per cent) along with social networking sites. 

To put this finding in perspective, twice as many people trust their credit card provider than they do government departments.

Adrian Gregory, Managing Director, DQM Group, saind, “These findings highlight the urgent need to improve standards of personal data security in the private and public sectors alike. In order to start the process of standards improvement, however, organisations need a means of benchmarking their current personal data security standards against an industry and best practice average.

“To be effective, data security has to be at the heart of an organisation. That means drawing up an agreed policy around how data will be managed and protected, combined with metrics to indicate how well the organisation is performing against these goals.

“Unless widespread improvement in data security standards takes place in the next few years, across both private and public sectors, then commercial organisations will stand to lose custom, and government will miss efficiency targets, all because the public is increasingly less willing to risk handing over their personal details.”

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