UK government not trusted with personal data

UK government not trusted with personal data

Resistance to ID cards remains high

Just one in 10 adults in the UK trusts the government with their personal information, according to a study commissioned by Data Encryption Systems (DES).

The company's online 'Love All, Trust A Few' survey looked into the trust levels of the public on data protection issues.

Overall, the public seems very trusting. Some 74 per cent of those surveyed said that they would hand over personal information to certain third parties.

Respondents rated their families as the group they would be most willing to trust, but banks and employers come above friends.

However, only one in 10 would trust the government with their data, only slightly more than the nine per cent who would trust an online retailer.

"With the increasing dependence on IT and the rise of identity theft, data protection is no longer just a problem for the CIO, but something everyone has to consider," said David Tomlinson, managing director for DES.

"Every time you pay online, register your taxes or apply for a passport, you are taking a gamble with your personal information, so knowing who to trust is a burning question."

The survey also found that the potential introduction of ID cards remains a contentious issue. Around 41 per cent of respondents are in favour of identity cards, 40 per cent are against and 19 per cent are undecided.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said recently that the government will delay the widespread introduction of ID cards until 2012.

However, those working with children, at airports, or in specific sensitive roles and locations will be brought into the systems in 2009.

Although people applying for passports will no longer be forced to have an ID card, their details will be entered in to a National Identity Register.

The Register will hold details such as name, address, gender, date and place of birth, immigration status, fingerprints, iris patterns and facial image.

Scepticism about ID cards is high, according to the survey. Around 72 per cent of people who are against or unsure about ID cards do not trust the government to protect the personal data they collect.

Among these, 93 per cent said that this is because the government has a poor track record of looking after data.

Some 87 per cent think that there is a lack of competence with personal data security in government, and 69 per cent said that the government has a poor regard for citizens' privacy.

DES reckons that the spate of data leaks at various UK public sector agencies have had an impact on public opinion.

Over two thirds of respondents do not trust the government's IT systems, and 56 per cent simply do not trust civil servants with their personal data.

"On the face of it, these results seem surprising and controversial as they highlight such a high level of mistrust in government," said Cherry Taylor, managing director for Dynamic Markets, which compiled the report.

"However in the wider context, when you consider the series of data protection incidents last year, maybe it is not as shocking as you would first imagine.

"This is a problem we have seen echoed in other research, which suggests that it might be an issue the government really needs to address."

The survey also found that 64 per cent of people who use a computer at work deal with what they consider to be sensitive or private information relating to clients, customers and staff.

But only 37 per cent said they are given the means of encrypting this sensitive information so that when necessary, even the company or contract IT staff cannot readily access it.