In Depth

Criminals ‘more trusted with data than government’

Poll highlights public fears as the EU prepares biggest overhaul of data privacy laws in 20 years

People believe corporations and the government are more likely than criminals to misuse their data, according to a new poll released to coincide with Data Privacy Day.

The survey, conducted by Tripwire, a business security provider, asked participants: “Who are you most concerned about collecting your private information? The government, corporations, identify theft criminals, or online stalkers/harassers?”

The largest group (40%) said they would be most worried about corporations stealing their information. More than a quarter (27%) said they were most concerned about the government and just one fifth (21%) said identity theft criminals. The remaining 12% were most concerned about online stalkers and harassers storing their private information.

Tim Erlin, vice-president at Tripwire, said: “Nearly the entire economy is geared to convince you that your data really doesn’t need to be private, and that you should freely share it. From social media, to loyalty programs, to smart home devices; all of these trends are built on the back of your data.”

But he added: “Remember that it’s yours, and it’s valuable and you have a right to protect it and keep it private. That leads you to making explicit choices to share, rather than sharing by default.”

Facebook privacy case

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) yesterday ruled against an Austrian privacy campaigner who brought a class-action lawsuit against Facebook for alleged misuse of personal data. Max Schemes began legal action in 2014 on behalf of 25,000 people, claiming the site had violated European privacy laws.

Despite yesterday’s victory, the social network faces a series of challenges, with courts, policymakers and some of the company’s two billion users raising “concerns about Facebook’s role in spreading digital misinformation globally, as well as how it handled individuals’ personal data”, says Politico.

In May this year, the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force, imposing a new set of regulations on how organisations can handle the data of EU citizens.

Billed as the biggest overhaul of European privacy laws in 20 years, “the reforms will make it easier for consumers to control how businesses use their personal data”, says the Financial Times.

However, research suggests that less than half of all businesses and charities in the UK are aware of the new EU rules, which come into force on 25 May.

“Just as criminal and activist hackers could penetrate firms and cause data breaches, so companies could breach data laws themselves in search of profits,” says Sky News. Those which do will face a fine of up to 4% of global turnover or  €20m (£17.5), whichever is greater.

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