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Data Protection Commission

Press Release  - 12th January 2006

Privacy fears still on the increase warns Data Protection Commissioner

A recent survey commissioned by Billy Hawkes, the Data Commissioner, shows that people in Ireland are more concerned than ever before about the importance of privacy of personal information. 

The survey found that nine out of ten people say that personal privacy is very important to them.  They rate personal privacy as particularly important when using the Internet and with regard to disclosures of financial and credit information.  Other specific areas of concern are privacy in relation to Personal Public Service (PPS) numbers and medical records, as well as unwanted telephone marketing and SMS texts. 

"I'm very pleased that everyone is becoming more aware of the importance of protecting their personal information, such as their banking and finance details.  I'm also glad that people are becoming more aware of my Office and what we can do to help those who feel they haven't been treated fairly or they're finding it hard to get their rights under data protection law" said Billy Hawkes when announcing the survey results.   

Awareness of the Data Protection Commissioner's Office is now at a level of 50%, a considerable increase on the previous survey results in 2002. However, one surprising result was a lower level of awareness of privacy of personal information among people in the 18 – 25 age group.

The survey was carried out by Lansdowne Market Research; a summary of the survey results is on the following page and the full Report is available on the Commissioner's website www.dataprotection.ie   
Media Queries:
Sean Sweeney  - tel. 01 874 8544
Email ssweeney@dataprotection.ie 

Data Protection Commissioner's Privacy Survey

Summary of Main Findings

Results from the 2005 survey indicate that the importance of maintaining privacy in relation to personal information, using the Internet, and opposition to receiving unsolicited direct marketing continue to be areas of concern to Irish people.
For comparable measures, the need for privacy of personal information is even more important to Irish people, continuing the upward trend seen in previous years.

 50% of those surveyed knew about the Data Protection Commissioner and his Office.  Also, the proportion of people who would complain to the Data Protection Commissioner's office about invasion of privacy has increased significantly since 2002 and 1997 (2005-18%;  2002 - 8% and 1997 - 2%).

Consistently across all measures, younger (18-24 year olds) and older people (50+), and those from lower socio economic groups display lowest levels of awareness, knowledge and perceived importance to personal privacy issues.  Particular focus is required on these groups in order to reduce their exposure to data privacy risks, and raise awareness of the Data Protection Commissioner's office overall.

While a recent advertising campaign on public transport was effective in terms of being seen by one in four adults, particularly those who are aware of the Data Protection Commissioner (almost one in two), it impacted most on 25-49 year olds and ABC1's.
Privacy of personal information continues to be of utmost importance to Irish people with almost nine out of ten claiming it to be very important to them personally.

 Financial history achieves greatest levels of importance (almost 9 out of ten – very important). However medical records, credit card details and PPS number is mentioned by 8 of 10 respondents.  Interestingly this year, PPS number has grown in importance in terms of keeping private compared to previous years (84 % very important in 2005 vs.60% in 2002).

There is concern among those surveyed about using the internet in terms of disclosing credit card details and the possibility of internet fraud. The findings also indicated low levels of trust in using companies on the internet, even well known companies.