Nearly a quarter (24%) of people working from home due to COVID-19 admit they ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ consider data protection policies or regulations when they share information with colleagues as part of their work, according to new research.

Quarter of homeworkers handling customer data don’t think about data protection- survey

Research conducted in May 2020 by leading data discovery technology company, Exonar, in partnership with market research house, OnePoll, has found that nearly a quarter (24%) of people working from home due to COVID-19 admit they ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ consider data protection policies or regulations when they share information with colleagues as part of their work.

This is particularly alarming when coupled with the fact that the survey of 2,000 UK COVID-19 homeworkers revealed that nearly three-quarters (72%) claim to need to access, share and receive sensitive customer information to allow them to perform their job role.

Interestingly, the youngest (18-24) and eldest (55+) respondents to the survey are those least likely to consider data protection policies and regulations when sharing information, with 24% and 32% respectively claiming to consider these either rarely or never. This despite the fact that 18-24 years olds were only just behind 25-34 year olds in terms of having the greatest proportion of respondents admit that they require to access, work with, share or receive sensitive data to do their job – 74% and 76% respectively.

The survey also found that more than 1 in 10 COVID-19 homeworkers (14%) claim to have little to no understanding of their company’s data protection policies or data regulations such as GDPR, or to be completely in the dark about the existence of such policies or regulations.

Even in London where the greatest proportion of respondents claim to have at least some level of understanding of data protection policies and regulations (88%), only 79% claimed that they always or often take these into account when sharing information.

The survey results also demonstrated that only just over half (53%) of people working from a home computer believe that their machine is very well protected by a firewall or virus detection software. Despite this, worryingly over a third (36%) of those currently forced to work from home admit to downloading unapproved software onto their computer to share information with colleagues, rising to nearly half of respondents (47%) in the 18-34 age group specifically.

CEO of Exonar, Danny Reeves, comments: “The results of the research cause huge concern because today, every company is effectively a data company. Every enterprise holds sensitive information about its customers that could do massive reputational damage if handled incorrectly.

Right now, employees are needing to access and work with customer data from home, which increases the risk of sensitive information not being protected properly, especially if people are not following data protection principles. It only takes one mistake by one employee to create a data breach situation.

The business landscape has changed beyond recognition, and data management is now absolutely essential for businesses operating a world of home working. Putting privacy at the heart of a data management strategy is no longer optional.

The problem is that in almost every case, businesses simply do not know what data they’ve got, where it is, and therefore how to secure it. There’s a dangerous lack of visibility across data estates.

Being able to discover data at speed, scale and depth empowers organisations to protect and power the people they serve. The onus is also on businesses to identify the individuals handling and sharing data, and to upskill them in data protection principles so as to retain the trust of all the stakeholders.”

Exonar’s data discovery software is changing the game for businesses, enabling them to know their data at an epic scale for the first time. It is the crucial component that makes billions of items of structured and unstructured data accessible, instantly searchable and useable in one place. Exonar will reveal where the most sensitive data sits, where policies and regulations are being adhered to by employees and, vitally, where they are not.

Methodology for survey

All statistics are based on a survey commissioned by Exonar in partnership with market research specialists, OnePoll, in May 2020. The survey garnered responses from 2,000 UK adults currently working from home as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

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