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 the Information Commissioner.

Christopher Graham’s comments are backed up by a YouGov poll which shows that nearly eight out of ten 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 (Thursday 28 January) Mr 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.

Mr 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 per cent of people would definitely stop using a company’s services after hearing news of a data breach, while 57 per cent would consider stopping. Only eight per cent said the coverage would make no difference and 14 per cent said they didn’t know.

Mr Graham said:

“The knock on effect of a data breach can be devastating for a company. Getting hit with a fine is one thing, but when customers start taking their business – and their money – elsewhere, that can be a real body blow.”

Keeping personal data secure is just part of the picture. Some 95 per cent 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 per cent deemed it very or fairly important that their information was not shared with other companies.

Mr Graham said:

“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.” 

Notes to Editors

  1. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2039 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 25 - 26 January 2016.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
  1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
  1. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
  1. The ICO can take action to change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information. This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit. The ICO has the power to impose a monetary penalty on a data controller of up to £500,000.
  1. Anyone who processes personal information must comply with eight principles of the Data Protection Act, which make sure that personal information is:
  • fairly and lawfully processed;
  • processed for limited purposes;
  • adequate, relevant and not excessive;
  • accurate and up to date;
  • not kept for longer than is necessary;
  • processed in line with your rights;
  • secure; and
  • not transferred to other countries without adequate protection.
  1. Civil Monetary Penalties (CMPs) are subject to a right of appeal to the (First-tier Tribunal) General Regulatory Chamber against the imposition of the monetary penalty and/or the amount of the penalty specified in the monetary penalty notice.
  1. Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
  1. To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to ico.org.uk/concerns/