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Consumer data protection healthcheck launched

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Consumers were urged today to make better checks on the amount of personal information held about them by organisations.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) called on consumers to exercise their rights under the Data Protection Act to help limit the information stored about them.

The ICO today launched an online personal information “healthcheck” to help the public manage their personal information.

The ICO’s own research found 95% of people considered their personal information valuable, with more than 70% claiming to routinely shred personal documents.

Data security rights

However the ICO said that although people were more aware of data security, their information could still be at risk because they were not asserting their rights.

The ICO said 44% of Britons had never considered contacting an organisation to find out what information it held about them, while 40% admitted they would hand over their details to a company without knowing if it was trustworthy.

ICO deputy commissioner David Smith said: “Sometimes people have no choice but to provide personal details to organisations, yet the more information we provide, the greater the risk that it will become out of date, be held for too long, or fall into the wrong hands.

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“It is time for more people to stand up and use the rights they have under the Data Protection Act. The more people that use their rights to check what information is held about them, the stronger the signal to organisations that the mismanagement of people’s personal details will not be tolerated.”

Which? technology editor Matthew Bath welcomed the move: “Anything that can help consumers better understand their rights and feel more confident about their personal information will be of great use to consumers.”

The ICO’s healthcheck is available at www.ico.gov.uk/infohealthcheck and gives advice on protecting personal information.

Be sure to visit Which? free advice on protecting your identity online, and our guide to choosing the right security software for your PC.

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