Companies that fail to keep personal data safe risk long-lasting reputational damage that can impact on the future success of the business, according to Information Commissioner Christopher Graham.
Graham’s comments are backed up by a YouGov poll which shows that nearly eight out of 10 people would think twice about giving their custom to an online company that had made headlines for failing to stop a data security breach.
Speaking at the Advertising Association’s leadership summit tomorrow (28th January) Graham will say that ICO fines of up to £500,000 for breaching the Data Protection Act are a powerful deterrent, but the negative impact created by media coverage of a penalty can have a greater impact than the fine itself.
Graham will say: “Companies that play fast and loose with people’s personal information risk the wrath of the ICO and that means fines of up to £500,000. A heavy fine is bad enough, but the time, energy and money it takes to rebuild customer confidence can be as severe a punishment as the fine itself.”
The YouGov poll was commissioned by the ICO to mark European Data Protection Day. It showed 20% of people would definitely stop using a company’s services after hearing news of a data breach, while 57% would consider stopping. Only eight per cent said the coverage would make no difference and 14% said they didn’t know.
Keeping personal data secure is just part of the picture. Some 95% of people polled by YouGov said it was very or fairly important that companies were clear from the outset about how their personal information would be used. And 94% deemed it very or fairly important that their information was not shared with other companies.
Graham concluded: “It is clear that people care about what happens to their personal information. Getting it right is not only an obligation under law, but it should be central to an organisation’s reputation management.”