Survey says public aren’t confident government can protect personal data

Written by Rebecca Hill on 5 October 2016 in News
News

More than half of the British public think it would be easier to use government services if departments were better at sharing information, a survey has found.

Covata says it isn't surprising the public are cautious after high-profile data breaches and hacks - Photo credit: Flickr, elhombredenegro

The survey of 1,658 people, carried out by YouGov on behalf data-security company Covata, looked at the public’s opinions of government use of data and related security measures.

According to the results, 51% of respondents said that it would be easier to engage with the government and use its services if departments shared information and data.

However, 57% of respondents said that they did not trust those departments to share such data securely, with the greatest concerns being around the risk of data being leaked or hacked.


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An even larger proportion were found to have little faith in the government’s abilities to prevent data misuse. Some 78% of respondents said that they either didn’t know or didn’t believe that the government has the appropriate resources and technology to stop attacks or identify data breaches.

The company, which offers cloud security service,s is using the survey to argue that the government should increase its use of cloud services and stop relying on “IT giants”.

In an open letter to ministers, Covata said that, while the government had made “considerable steps” towards digitising services, it needed to work to reassure citizens that it can be trusted with their data.

It said that it was “perhaps expected”, given the Snowden revelations and news that Yahoo! allowed the US government access to emails, that the public would be sceptical about the government’s ability to keep personal data secure.

To instil confidence, it must adhere to “the strictest security measures” and encrypt all sensitive information by default.

“Strict controls must be in place to guarantee that only authorised personnel can access this information,” it said.

“Who attempts to access which files should be constantly monitored to ensure no breaches of protocol. Departments should make it impossible for files to be shared by unauthorised channels, such as consumer-grade file sharing or cloud-based platforms.”

The letter emphasised that, as the government moves away from legacy systems, it should ensure it uses agile technology from smaller companies. This is something the government has committed to on paper, but a number of studies and anecdotal evidence have suggested this isn’t happening as a matter of course across all of government.

However, Covata did praise the government’s efforts to do this, singling out its move to create the marketplace for cloud services, G-Cloud, as being an effort to “lead the global charge”.

Covata said: “Decisive action and implementation of new highly secure collaboration and communication services will help the Government restore faith in its services.”

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