The majority of organisations in the public and private sectors fail to understand the legal requirements for the storage of personal data, according to research from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).
The ICO Annual Track 2010 found that just 48 per cent of private and 60 per cent of public sector organisations are aware of the need to store personal information securely.
The research also found that just 14 per cent of all organisations can identify the Eight Data Protection Principles unprompted, a fall of eight per cent on the same survey in 2007.
This lack of awareness is reflected in the large number of organisations taken to task by the ICO for data protection breaches, particularly NHS Trusts.
The survey did contain some good news, however. Around 90 per cent of individuals have a clear understanding of their right to see information about them held by an organisation, up 15 per cent since 2004.
Some 84 per cent know that they can request information from authorities through the Freedom of Information Act. Around 80 per cent described the Freedom of Information Act as 'necessary', while 93 per cent said that the Data Protection Act is 'necessary'.
Information commissioner Christopher Graham explained in a statement that the importance individuals place on data protection should act as a warning to businesses.
"Individuals are concerned about the collection and secure storage of their personal information. Ignoring data protection obligations is ignoring a key customer concern," he said.
"Businesses need to show that they are taking data protection seriously. Failing to do so could not only lead to enforcement action, but do significant damage to their reputation."
Despite this warning, the ICO has yet to issue any fines, although deputy ICO commissioner David Smith told V3.co.uk in September that two fines are imminent.
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