A majority (84 percent) of UK consumers believe that fewer than 20 companies hold sensitive information about them online.
New research from Ground Labs suggests that UK consumers are far more giving than they realise. Nearly a third (28 percent) guessed that less than 10 organisations hold sensitive data about them.
When presented with a list of 50 online services and retailers offered by the study, two out of five customers found that the reality was significantly higher than their original estimate based on their knowledge of interactions in the last year.
Automatic backups, log files and emails, and companies who share information with third parties can generate thousands of copies of data on and offline. Many companies also keep records of former customers for a period of time.
Recent figures from the Office of National Statistics show that fraud and cyber-crime are the most prevalent types of crime in the UK, with nearly six million offences committed last year alone.
“Unless customers have an accurate idea of who has access to their data, they are unable to take the precautions necessary to protect themselves online. Customers dramatically underestimate how many companies have access to their information,” said John Cassidy, VP EMEA, Ground Labs.
He added, “Most people are unaware of the multiplying effect when dealing with so many service providers and so the responsibility must fall on companies to protect this sensitive data.”