Spike in Data Breach News Stories Hits Public Confidence

There have been over 24,000 news stories about data breaches so far this year, leading to record low levels of confidence amongst the public about data security, according to new research from Deloitte.

The business consultancy found via a Factiva search that there were 24,105 news stories in total on breaches between January and October – way higher than the 5474 reports last year and 4023 in 2012.

This doesn’t necessarily indicate a greater number of breaches, of course, but an increasing interest from the press in such stories, which in turn is raising awareness amongst the public.

Peter Gooch, privacy leader at Deloitte, argued that taken as a whole, the increase in news stories is a positive trend because “it’s an extra mechanism that puts greater emphasis on organisations doing the right thing with data and being held accountable.”

“It is clearly building awareness, which is positive, but the tone of the reporting remains essentially negative, which contributes to a very pessimistic view – this may, indeed, be saturating the public consciousness,” he told Infosecurity.

“There is a danger at the moment of breach fatigue, because the real impact on an individual is often not understood until long after the incident and by then the publicity has quietened, so the true impact is often not widely shared.”

Deloitte interviewed over 2000 people in the UK and found that an alarming 63% said they didn’t have ‘much or any’ confidence that firms would keep their personal information safe from harm.

“Breaches do happen, but it’s about having appropriate controls to minimize the likelihood of one happening and the impact if it does,” Gooch explained.

“In practice, of course, and in aggregate, the total amount of data that is handled securely significantly outnumbers the data that is lost or stolen.”

The report also highlighted a failure of many organizations to explain their privacy policies or terms and conditions in plain English.

Nearly half of those surveyed (47%) said they didn’t read these, meaning they are unaware of how their data is being used.

Of the top 100 websites visited by UK netizens, such content takes an average of 26 minutes to read and understand, Deloitte argued.

With that in mind it’s not surprising that only a third believe website privacy policies are clear.

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