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Many people underestimate how many organisations are holding sensitive information about them a new survey has suggested. The research, commissioned by security software company Ground Labs, would suggest that the average UK consumer is actually far more giving than they realise,the product firm says.

When asked how many organisations they believed held their personal data, the majority (84pc) of consumers guessed at fewer than twenty. In fact, almost three in ten (28pc) guessed that fewer than ten organisations hold sensitive data about them. However, once presented with a list of 50 online services and retailers, two out of five customers calculated that the reality was significantly higher than their original estimate. This was based on their knowledge of interactions in the past 12 months alone.

The survey only offered 50 examples across the many thousands of organisations in receipt of customer data – from airlines and retailers to online services and utility companies.

John Cassidy, VP EMEA, Ground Labs, said: “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, as illustrated by our survey. We only asked people to pick from fifty of the biggest online companies, in reality, the number of organisations who have access to any one individual’s data is much, much higher than our survey suggests.”

According to Ground Labs, the total number of companies you interact with is simply a starting point. Automatic backups, log files and emails, plus companies who legally share information with third parties can generate hundreds and thousands of potential copies of your data both on and offline. And, many companies will keep records of former customers for months or even years.

Cassidy added: “A conservative estimate would suggest that for any given adult, hundreds of thousands of copies of personal data reside on physical devices and cloud storage platforms both in and outside of the UK. 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.”


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