Private sector companies are lagging behind the public sector on their knowledge of data protection.
Research by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) found that overall awareness of five of the eight data protection principles increased between 2009 and 2010, but levels of awareness are still higher in the public sector than among private sector organisations.
The research, undertaken by SMSR on behalf of the ICO, found that just under half of private sector firms said, unprompted, that they should store personal information securely, compared with 60 per cent of public sector organisations.
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said: “A strong awareness of data protection obligations is of fundamental importance to any organisation. Businesses need to show they are taking data protection seriously. Failing to do so could not only lead to enforcement action, it could also do significant damage to their reputation.
Chris McIntosh, CEO of Stonewood said that he found the statistic about private businesses still not grasping the Data Protection Act was ‘shocking'.
He said: “Businesses need to reflect on the consequences of this failure to understand the Data Protection Act as they hold copious amounts of valuable personal data. In fact the average monetary value alone of data contained on a laptop is half a million pounds. Beyond this, businesses can and have lost large contracts as a result of data loss.
“To deal with this attitude, the ICO really needs to stick with its promises and finally start levelling appropriate fines. When it comes to securing personal data it's obvious that actions say more than a thousand words.”