ICO urges consumers to take control of their data

The Information Commissioner's Office has called on consumers to manage their personal information themselves.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has called on consumers to use their legal rights to manage their personal information - because organisations aren't doing such a great job.

An ICO-sponsored survey of over 2,000 UK adults found the level of awareness around the importance of personal data had grown 95 per cent considered it quite' or very' valuable and more than 70 per cent claimed to routinely shred personal documents.

But it revealed 44 per cent of those questioned by the ICM Research poll had never considered contacting an organisation to find out what information it holds about them. More alarmingly, 40 per cent admitted they would hand over their details to a company without knowing whether it was trustworthy.

David Smith, ICO deputy commissioner, said people need to realise that the more personal data they provide to organisations, the greater the risk was that it would become out-of-date, be held for longer than the Data Protection Act (DPA) stipulates, or fall into the wrong hands.

"The more people that use their rights [under the DPA] to check what information is held about them, the stronger the signal to organisations that the mismanagement of peoples personal details will not be tolerated," Smith said.

Demonstrating the risks when too much personal information is kept by organisations, the ICO said that frequent data breaches should urge people to take the protection of their personal information even more seriously.

With that in mind, the ICO has launched a new online tool to help consumers do their bit to protect and manage their personal information.

Smith said: "Our Personal Information Healthcheck is suitable for everyone, whether they've never before thought about protecting their personal information or could just benefit from a few extra tips and ideas."

The 'healthcheck' is of a list of questions about the storage and management of personal information - like PIN numbers and passports - that is used to score the level of risk a person takes with their data and offer relevant security advice.

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