Government 'less trusted than banks' on data handling

Survey also shows 44% of people think government and regulators should be responsible for making sure data is handled ethically

Photo: justgrimes/CC BY-SA 2.0

The general public trust government to handle their data less than they trust banks to do the same, a survey has revealed.

Just 30% of people surveyed by the Open Data Institute and YouGov said they trusted central government to use their personal data ethically, while 31% trusted local government.

This compares with 42% of the 2,007 people surveyed who said they trusted banks and building societies.


Civil servants did fare better than utility providers, however, which were trusted to handle data ethically by just 18% of survey respondents, and social media organisations, which were trusted by only 5%.

The only organisation to secure the confidence of more than half of people in the survey was the NHS, with 59% saying they believed the health service could be trusted to handle their data.

The survey results showed how strongly people felt about how their information is used, with 87% saying they felt it was important or very important that the organisations they interacted with used data about them ethically.

And it also showed an appetite for government regulation, with nearly half of respondents – 44% – saying government and regulators should have the most responsibility for ensuring data about them is handled ethically. Meanwhile, 18% thought most responsibility should rest with the companies and organisations collecting data, 12% with individuals and just 3% with consumer rights organisations.

ODI chief executive Jeni Tennison said the results showed that people “quite rightly expect organisations to use their personal data ethically”.

“Organisations need to respond to their concerns and be more trustworthy in how they collect and use personal data. This is not only the right thing to do, it will help organisations to keep benefiting from the data they rely on and retain the trust of their customers and employees.

“Talking about using data ethically is not enough, organisations need to publicly demonstrate how they do this in order to build trust.”

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