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80% of UK users don't trust businesses with data

Nearly four out of five people in Britain believe their personal information is unsafe with commercial websites and businesses. And they think that those responsible for losing data should be hung drawn and quartered. String 'em up!

According to research, commissioned by Symantec, we live in unforgiving, Dickensian but digital times. Around 89 percent of UK folk think that those responsible for data breaches should be thrown in gaol - do not pass go, do not keep your company car.

According to the study, four out of five respondents believe that being at fault when data goes missing should be a ‘one strike and you're out' crime. Lose a disc, get a suit with arrows on it.

In our current economic woe (I refuse to use the term 'credit crunch' as it conjures up images of plastic cereal) such 'bring back National Service' attitudes spell out a clear warning for businesses. Lose data, and you'll lose punters (and go to prison). But where there's the chance to lose money, there's a businessman listening: according to the poll 76 percent of enterprises already expect to lose customers if a data loss or breach occurs. They're on their guard.

This is just as well. Three quarters of respondents are 'concerned by how much information companies hold about them', and more than nine out of 10 refuse to divulge information to organisations that have lost data in the past. Given the essential nature of some of the Government organisations with terrible data-protection track records, this must be a hard stance to maintain without eschewing healthcare and social security. (Not least because half of the respondents said the Government is the least trustworthy organisation around. Ouch.)

Such forthright views are all very well, of course, but they are the moral majority equivalent of standing up in the pub and saying: 'that Hitler. He was a bad sort'. For all that poll respondents puffed out their chests and chastised those responsible for data breaches, most UK people are terrible at protecting their own data. Security begins at home, folks.

For instance: 73 percent of respondents in the study admitted to not checking what happens to credit card information when it leaves their sight. Trust me, waiters are a shifty lot. Even more bonkers: nearly one in five don't even check the bone fides of websites they transact with.

It's fair to say that we all need to up our game, somewhat. But there is a limit.

Symantec makes great play of the fact that nearly 90 percent of the great unwashed 'would share their name' (23 percent their date of birth) with a stranger. I can't help but feel that this is the point at which social interaction demands a certain toning down of personal security standards. Or, to put it another way, I'm not prepared to spend the rest of my life incognito, failing to celebrate my birthday, on the off chance.

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