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Data Privacy Day marks fresh interest in personal information security

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Today marks Data Privacy Day around the world, with an emphasis placed upon protecting personal information.

Described as ‘an international celebration of the dignity of the individual expressed through personal information', it said that with identities, locations, actions, purchases, associations, movements and histories stored as data, questions have to be asked who is collecting all of this, what are they doing with it and with whom are they sharing it?  Most of all, individuals are asking ‘How can I protect my information from being misused?'  These are reasonable questions to ask – we should all want to know the answers.

It said: “These are not questions for consumers and citizens alone, business operators must engage in this dialogue as well. They have to question whether they are complying with laws and regulations requiring consumer privacy protections. They know that customers have to trust their technologies and services before they will use and pay for them.”

Data Privacy Day's Jolynn Dellinger noted that in 2011 ‘privacy is everyone's business'. “Where are we headed in 2011 from a business perspective? Corporate accountability coupled with consumer education are absolutely necessary. Companies that value consumer trust and work to earn it by designing privacy into their products and services will be the standard setters,” he said.

“At the very least, we need to be beyond the ‘let's try it and see if anyone complains' method. Instead, businesses should heed the advice of Dr. Cavoukian – 2011 should be the beginning of the decade of Privacy by Design. Privacy from the ground up, from the inside out, from the beginning to the end.”

Mark Fullbrook, director of UK & Ireland at Cyber Ark, said: “Data Protection Day is a great opportunity to highlight the need for a tightening of data security industry-wide. It is therefore all the more disappointing that the UK is failing to do anything proactive to coincide with the event.

“Given the recent wave of web attacks, lost laptops and lost data, the event would have served as a timely reminder to the British public and business community that it is absolutely essential that we continue to campaign for a strengthening of data protection practices today.

“Raising awareness of the issue is absolutely key, as consumers clearly need a greater understanding of their rights when it comes to data privacy. However, to be truly effective, data protection must be top of mind 24/7.  This is where organisations must play their part.”

Anders Kjellander, CSO at BlockMaster, said: “To be fair we're all guilty of sharing too much information at times, but there is a vast difference between ‘over sharing' our weekend plans on Facebook and exposing corporate data.

“Most of us will take work home at some point, but with USB sticks and portable media getting smaller, it has never been easier to mislay data which could be extremely important to your organisation, or a competitor or hacker.”

A survey by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) found that 80 per cent of people are concerned about their personal details online. Its research found that 92 per cent of individuals are concerned that organisations do not keep their details secure, while a further 60 per cent believe that businesses have lost control of the way their personal information is collected and processed.

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said: “Whether you are surfing the net, shopping online or signing up to social networking sites, it is crucial that people are thinking about how their information might be used. European Data Protection Day is about motivating people to regain control of their right to privacy. I hope people of all ages across the UK will do just that.”

Lord McNally, Minister of State for the Ministry of Justice, said: “The issue of keeping our personal data safe is still as relevant as ever. Technology has come a long way since the 1990s, but with fresh opportunities come fresh risks for our personal information. This is why the Government is working with businesses, charities, consumer groups and the public sector, to look at the law and ensure it continues to protect our personal information well into the 21st century.”

Richard Turner, chief executive at Clearswift, said: “The ICO is right to say there is a real issue when it comes to people understanding how to protect themselves online and it is not just about personal data, the knowledge gap is a huge issue within businesses.

“Sadly not that surprising that so many people feel their data is not in safe hands with businesses, our recent research showed that a third of those surveyed had not received any training on IT security since joining their firm.

“Many businesses still have such an outdated stop and block approach to security that it is frustrating for employees and they go to great lengths to get around overly intrusive security. Living our lives online and often in the workplace, it is more vital than ever before that people are better educated when it comes to IT security.”

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