UK citizens are deeply concerned about data protection, a new Big Brother Watch polling shows

The findings of recent polling, commissioned by privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch and carried out by ComRes, clearly show that UK citizens harbour deep concerned about their privacy online. The polling also demonstrates that data regulation is not perceived as being strong enough to ensure Google complies with data protection laws.

This is especially interesting as last week Google’s approach to user privacy was again called into question by a ruling of the UK Court of Appeal. In the Vidal-Hall v Google case the court ruled that British iPhone users are able to sue Google for bypassing security settings and secretly tracking them on Apple’s Safari browser. In 2012 Google was fined $22.5m by the Federal Trade Commission to settle a similar investigation. The UK Court’s decision once again confirms that European laws do apply to Google, despite Google’s continued claims to the contrary. The judgement strongly recommended that, due to the importance of the issue, it was right for the case to go to full trial.

Google tried to undermine these accusations, claiming that it was unaware that it was secretly tracking Apple users over a period of nine months, between 2011 and 2012, and that no harm was done to consumers because they had not lost out financially. However, the Court decided to take a bold position, stating “we see these arguments for what they are: a breach of consumers’ civil rights and actionable before the English courts. We look forward to holding Google to account for its actions.”

The Big Brother Watch research and last week’s Court of Appeal ruling emphasise once again the need for a stricter enforcement of regulations to protect consumers and their right to privacy. Significantly, there is evidence that people are becoming aware of the impact that data privacy has on their lives. Regulators are also increasingly recognising the importance of data in creating new markets and shaping the existing ones. As highlighted by Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager in relation to Big Data, it is vital that we change our understanding of payment and value, because personal data is almost a new currency in the internet marketplace.

With a staggering three quarters of people (72%), according to Big Brother Watch’s survey, now believing that the Information Commissioner’s Office should be doing more to force Google to comply with data regulations, it has become imperative to act on this issue and take concrete action to protect people’s privacy.