By Aahad Ali, Consultant

Text. Swipe. Post. Scroll. E-mail. Buy. Like. Just a few of the things we do every day on our phones, computers and tablets. With each button pushed, app downloaded, or level completed, we share more information about ourselves with a variety of organisations, websites and the omnipresent ‘Cloud’.

As we become more connected and lead increasingly ‘smart’ lives, the risks of data breach have grown. Indeed, earlier this year we found that two in five Britons said they have been affected in some way by a breach of their data (42%).


After a summer of infidelity’ resulting from the Ashley Madison data leak, data security is once again on the agenda. Even before that, ComRes research for Big Brother Watch found that four in five (79%) adults in the UK were concerned about their privacy online. Most worryingly for the business world is that more than twice as many people think they are being harmed by big companies gathering their personal data, than say the consumer experience is enhanced by it. Clearly there is still a lot to do to shape understanding of the benefits of data gathering.

big data


With public scepticism about companies gathering their data, logic might dictate that businesses would do well to focus their efforts on managing data security and user privacy. However, recent ComRes research among decision-makers in SMEs found that only around half (47%) of small businesses say they would notify their customers ‘as quickly as possible’ in the event of a data breach.

As the number of high-profile hacks increase, businesses are also under pressure from governments and other external actors to take precautions to beef up their security. Last month, Andrew Parker, the Head of MI5 (in a role previously classified as just ‘M’) appeared on the Today programme stating that firms like Facebook and Apple had a “responsibility” to proactively share information about their users with intelligence services.

This presents an interesting challenge for companies; particularly as the Government seeks to revive the Snooper’s Charter, designed to tighten guidelines businesses must follow on user data. In America, President Obama has also commissioned a working group to take steps to protect public privacy and data. With legislation under review, both Parker’s and Obama’s proposals signal that governments are looking to take greater action on threats to both state and the individual.


When we speak to our doctor, we provide them with personal and intimate details about ourselves that we expect to be kept safe. Unfortunately, sometimes there are instances where it is impossible for a patient to control how their data is used – take for example, the recent leak of HIV patients’ identities and details. This proved to be a massive breach of patient trust by a reputable Harley Street practice. At the NHS England annual conference shortly after, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt noted; “The truth is that we will throw this [confidence] all away if we lose the public’s trust in our ability to look after personal data securely.”

The Harley Street breach is just one of many highlighted in the media in recent months, and the practice had to engage in damage control almost immediately after. Organisations therefore need to understand and share best practice as cyber-attacks gain in strength.

The banking industry, currently taking steps in recovering from its own reputational crisis, is increasingly placing greater importance on online security. Understanding the concerns of their customers and legislators alike, banks are now at the forefront of new ‘Blockchain’ technology designed to safeguard transactions and transfers of financial assets securely. Banks may have learned the hard way about restoring reputation, but their focus on online security for consumers clearly shows they’re eager to be ahead of any potential threats in the future.

Ultimately the end gain tends to outweigh concerns many consumers have. However, if major breaches continue to occur, consumers may begin to think twice about just how much they swipe, scroll and give away.