Oh UK Privacy, Thou Art Sick

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It would have been extraordinary if the steady stream of governmental privacy disasters had not had some effect on the British public. Now we have not one but two recent surveys to confirm that.

The first comes from DES, and:

showed 93 per cent of people who were against or not sure about identity cards said that this was because the government had a poor track record on protecting data.

This was a big contrast with the general freedom that people had with private information when dealing with organisations like banks and employers, with 74 per cent willing to hand over their details.

The results confirmed that the spate of data protection incidents and the press attention it has received has destroyed much of the trust that the public has with the governmental sector.

The second comes from the government's own Information Commissioner's Office (ICO):

The ICO commissioned a survey of 1,000 individuals into their attitude towards personal information and how it is held by organistions following the recent high profile data loss by HMRC. The research was conducted by ICM in February 2008.

It provides a broader picture of public distrust:

The nationwide survey suggests recent high profile data losses have had a significant impact on the way we now manage our personal information. Eighty eight per cent of us have started checking our bank statements on a more regular basis and 85% now refuse to give out personal details wherever possible.

The figures show that three quarters of us now worry more about the safety of our personal information than ever before. Fifty three per cent say we no longer have confidence in the way organisations such as banks, local authorities and government departments handle our personal information.

I suppose the good news is that at least these surveys show many more people are aware of how important it is to keep personal information safe. Now all we need is for the UK government to learn how to look after the data it's got, and to give up trying to squeeze even more from us with hare-brained schemes like the ID card.

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