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Most organizations' efforts to protect customer data and other sensitive information aren't nearly as effective as companies believe them to be
April 30, 2010
5 Min Read
NEW YORK " Nearly three-quarters of organizations believe they have adequate policies in place to protect sensitive, personal information, yet more than half have lost sensitive data within the past two years — and nearly 60 percent of those organizations acknowledge data loss as a recurring problem, according to findings of a global study released today by Accenture (NYSE: ACN).
The study — which surveyed more than 5,500 business leaders and 15,500 adult consumers in 19 countries — reveals a startling difference between organizations' intentions regarding data privacy and how they actually protect sensitive personal information, such as name, address, date of birth, race, National ID/social security number and medical history. The study was conducted in conjunction with the Ponemon Institute, an independent privacy, protection and information security research firm.
"The volume of sensitive personal information being collected and shared by organizations has grown exponentially in recent years, making data protection a critical business issue and not just a technology concern," said Alastair MacWillson, managing director of Accenture's Security practice. "Our study underscores the importance of taking a comprehensive approach to data privacy and protection, one that closes the gaps between business strategy, risk management, compliance reporting and IT security."
Global Business Findings
Fifty-eight (58) percent of business respondents have experienced at least one data security breach over the past two years, yet 73 percent said their organization has adequate policies to protect the personally identifiable information it maintains.
While 70 percent agreed that organizations have an obligation to take reasonable steps to secure consumers' personal information, there are discrepancies in their commitments for doing so:
* Forty-five (45) percent of respondents were unsure about or actively disagreed with granting customers the right to control the type of information that is collected about them.
* Forty-seven (47) percent were unsure about or disagreed with customers having a right to control how this information is used.
* Nearly half also did not believe it was important or very important to: limit the collection (47 percent) or sharing (46 percent) of sensitive personal customer information; protect consumer privacy rights (47 percent); prevent cross-border transfers of personal information to countries with inadequate privacy laws (47 percent); prevent cyber crimes against consumers (48 percent); or prevent data loss or theft (47 percent).
The study revealed that the biggest causes of data loss are internal — problems presumably well within an organization's ability to detect and correct. For instance, business or system failure (57 percent) and employee negligence or errors (48 percent) were cited most often as the source of the breaches; cyber crime was cited as a cause of only 18 percent of security breaches.
While many organizations believe that complying with existing regulations is sufficient, it appears that compliance alone may not be enough to protect sensitive data. For instance, 70 percent of respondents said they regularly monitor privacy and data protection regulatory compliance requirements, yet data breaches have occurred in 58 percent of organizations polled.
The study also identified significant differences in terms of attitudes and policies regarding data privacy and protection between organizations that had not experienced any data-security breach in the past two years and those that had. Specifically, respondents in organizations that did not have a data-security breach:
* were more likely to know where personal information on customers and employees resides within their organization's IT enterprise (75 percent versus 66 percent); and
* were more likely to feel an obligation to control who has access to personal data (72 percent versus 60 percent).
Global Consumer Findings
More than two-thirds (70 percent) of consumers surveyed around the world believe that privacy of their personal information is important or very important, yet 42 percent are skeptical that organizations are doing enough to adequately protect the personally identifiable information they have shared, revealing an overall lack of trust.
The study suggests that while consumers want to 'own' their personal information, they feel organizations have a responsibility for managing and protecting it. For instance:
* Fifty-three (53) percent of consumers said they believe they have the right to control how their personal information is used. The same percentage said they believe they have a right to access and review the data collected and used by organizations.
* When asked who has the most responsibility for ensuring that information is adequately protected, 41 percent of consumer respondents said the government, 21 percent said companies, 19 percent said the individual, and 20 percent said it should be a shared effort.
"The findings reinforce the critical role that data privacy plays in maintaining trust between organizations and their consumer and business customers," said Bojana Bellamy, Accenture's director of Data Privacy and vice president of the International Association of Privacy Professionals. "A proactive approach to data protection and privacy can not only help organizations avoid fines for non-compliance but, even more importantly, can help avoid breaches that can alienate customers and destroy brand credibility."
The full research report is available at http://accenture.com/dataprivacyresearch.
Teaming with Accenture, the Ponemon Institute independently conducted studies in 19 countries. Responses were collected using a combination of secure Web and telephone interview methods. The survey contained a series of objective, fixed-formatted questions held constant across national samples.
The business portion of the study is based on responses from 5, 512 business and IT practitioners, with a margin of error of 5 percent. The consumer portion is based on responses from 15,732 adult-aged consumers, with a margin of error of 3 percent.
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with more than 181,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world's most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US$21.58 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2009. Its home page is www.accenture.com.
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