LONDON: Many consumers in the UK are “blind” to the true use of their personal data and only half (51%) are aware they can request the data that a company holds on them at any time, a new study has revealed.

That is according to Civica, a specialist outsourcing company, which also found that around two-thirds (65%) of UK citizens believe their personal information is shared without their knowledge.

Civica, which focuses particularly on the public sector, also found that just 11% of the public completely trust local authorities or the government when it comes to their use of data.

And a full 40% believe retailers are rarely, or ever, transparent about their use of consumers’ personal data, yet more than half (53%) would trust organisations more if they were clear about what data they stored on them and how they use it.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is due to come into force in May 2018, is designed to empower citizens in their dealings with brands and other organisations that make use of their personal data.

Its rules will apply to any company, regardless of where they are based, that offer goods or services to consumers in the EU or which monitors the behaviour of people located there.

While this should strengthen the hand of consumers, the Civica survey, which did not provide a sample size, found that very few consumers – at least in the UK – are familiar with the new powers coming their way.

Only 12% of UK citizens are aware of what GDPR is, Civica reported, while just 18% of 16-24 year olds are “very aware” of what it is, despite them being the most prolific internet users and generators of data.

That said, more than half (53%) say they are more likely to ask for information a company holds on them – known as subject access requests – once it becomes free to do so after the GDPR comes into force.

Commenting on the GDPR, Civica Executive Director Chris Doutney said: “GDPR aims to give control of data back to citizens, so it’s of great concern that most don’t know what it is. For the new legislation to be effective – and give citizens power over their data – we need to start educating them on the legislation now.

“Getting ready for GDPR won’t be easy, but it’s a challenge we must all be prepared for. The businesses that embrace change and look beyond compliance to create a data driven approach to customer service and interaction will be the ones that benefit the most.”

For more about the implications of GDPR and how brands should prepare for it, WARC subscribers can read a recent event report: The global impact of GDPR and what brands need to do.

Sourced from Civica; additional content by WARC staff