Four in ten organisations obstruct access to personal data

23 June 2014
By Edd Gent
Mobile version
Share |
Organisations are flouting European rules on citizens' right to access their personal information

Organisations are flouting European rules on citizens' right to access their personal information

More than four in ten organisations obstruct access to people’s personal data in contravention of European law, a new study has found.

European and national laws giving citizens the right to know how their personal data is used, shared and processed by both private and public sector organisations, are being flouted by organisations which are making what should be a straightforward process complex, confusing, and often unsuccessful.

Citizen data access requests were sent from 10 European countries to 184 public and private sector organisations asking for a range of information, including paper, digital and CCTV records.

Each requests asked data controllers to disclose the personal data held; disclose any third parties with whom data had been shared and disclose whether and how data had been subject to any automated decision making processes.

Researchers found 43 per cent of requests did not result in personal data being disclosed or data subjects receiving a legitimate reason for the failure to disclose their personal data, while in over half of all cases (56 per cent) no adequate or legally compliant response was received concerning third party data sharing.

Study lead Professor Clive Norris, a specialist in the sociology of surveillance and social control from the University of Sheffield, said: “We part with our personal data on a daily basis, creating vast and invisible reservoirs of actionable personal information.  We do this actively and passively, and our experience of the world is reshaped in ways that we don’t appreciate.

“We are selectively marketed to, our locations are tracked by CCTV and automated licence plate recognition systems and our online behaviour is monitored, analysed, stored and used.  The challenge for all of us is that our information is often kept from us, despite the law and despite our best efforts to access it.”

The study forms part of the IRISS (Increasing Resilience in Surveillance Societies) project, funded by the EU and looked at citizen interactions in the domains of health, transport, employment, education, finance, leisure, communication, consumerism, civic engagement, and security and criminal justice.

In over two-thirds of cases (71 per cent) the request for information on automated decision making processes were either not addressed or not addressed in a legally compliant manner and acknowledgement letters were received in only 34 per cent of cases, which meant data subjects had no idea whether the requests were being dealt with.

Even in those cases where successful outcomes were achieved the process of submitting an access request was often complicated and time-consuming and in 31 per cent of cases disclosure was incomplete and researchers had to to pursue data controllers for more information.

In general, public sector organisations performed better than those in the private sector, with only 43 per cent engaging in restrictive practices compared with 62 per cent in the private sector.

While loyalty card scheme operators disclosed data in 86 per cent of cases, they did not perform as strongly in providing information about automated decision making processes (only 50 per cent of cases) and only 30 per cent of responses from banks disclosed information about third party data sharing.

In a significant minority (20 per cent) of cases, it was not even possible to locate a data controller, to whom subjects could deliver an access request, and requests for CCTV footage were particularly problematic, with seven out of ten requests for CCTV footage being met by restrictive practices from data controllers or their representative.

Norris said: “In our view, there is an urgent requirement for policymakers to address the failure of law at the European level and its implementation into national law. Organisations must ensure that they conform to the law.

“In particular, organisations need to make it clear who is responsible for dealing with requests from citizens; they need to train their staff so they are aware of their responsibilities under law; and they need to implement clear and unambiguous procedures to facilitate citizens making access requests.

“Finally national data protection authorities must have the legal means and organisational resources to both encourage and police compliance.”

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1604

"Should the UK's engineers be in or out of Europe? The IET sets out its official position on the EU referendum this week - will you agree?"

->

E&T jobs

  • Solutions Engineer

    Bristol Water
    • United Kingdom
    • £41,000 - 49,000

    We serve a population of over one million people and all the associated businesses in an area of 1,000 square miles centered on Bristol.

    • Recruiter: Bristol Water

    Apply for this job

  • Senior Mechanical Engineer

    Bristol Water
    • United Kingdom
    • £41,000 - 49,000

    We serve a population of over one million people and all the associated businesses in an area of 1,000 square miles centered on Bristol.

    • Recruiter: Bristol Water

    Apply for this job

  • Software Renewals Manager

    BAE Systems
    • Preston, Lancashire, England
    • Negotiable

    Software Renewals Manager Would you like to work in a resourceful and developing role within IT Services? We currently have a vacancy for a Software Renewals Manager at our site in Preston Channel Way. As a Software Renewals Manager, you will be responsi

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Technical Manager

    Aggregate Industries
    • Hulland Ward, Ashbourne
    • Attractive salary plus comprehensive benefits

    A key Technical Manager role driving product improvement and compliance with Aggregate Industries, market leader in Construction Solutions.

    • Recruiter: Aggregate Industries

    Apply for this job

  • Field Application Engineer

    Intel
    • Madrid

    Responsible for giving product presentations to the customer describing how Intel products provide the optimum solution to their application.

    • Recruiter: Intel

    Apply for this job

  • Engineers and Scientists

    European Patent Office
    • Munich and The Hague
    • See job description

    We are looking for Engineers and scientists in various technical fields for our locations in Munich and The Hague.

    • Recruiter: European Patent Office

    Apply for this job

  • Director of Product Management

    EMS Recruitment Group
    • West Yorkshire
    • Circa £70,000 PA + car allowance, excellent benefits including lucrative bonus scheme

    Our client is the undoubted world leader in their field. A highly innovative and progressive specialist electro-mechanical product manufacturer....

    • Recruiter: EMS Recruitment Group

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Engineer

    Premium job

    Scottish Prison Service
    • Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh
    • £40,654 to £48,579 plus annual supplement of £10,000

    Build Your Engineering Career. The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) is an Agency of the Scottish Government, working in partnership.....

    • Recruiter: Scottish Prison Service

    Apply for this job

  • Sales Electronics Engineer

    Premium job

    Precision Microdrives
    • London (Greater)
    • £25,000 - £30,000 starting salary, inclusive of on-target commissions.

    Precision Microdrives (PMD) is a fast growing technology company that designs, produces and trades miniature electro-mechanical mechanisms

    • Recruiter: Precision Microdrives

    Apply for this job

  • Installation and Commissioning Engineer

    Premium job

    Crest Solutions
    • Corby
    • Competitive

    You will be involved in installation, commissioning & servicing of printing and machine vision related solutions.

    • Recruiter: Crest Solutions

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶

Subscribe

Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T