The U.K. consumer group known as Which? is playing the role of whistleblower in the country’s banking and financial industry, reporting that eight of the biggest banks and building societies were guilty of data breaches between August 2009 and August 2010.
So far, Which? reports that 515 complaints have been filed with the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office, although it expects an influx of more reports to surface in the near future. Currently, just one in 10 U.K. citizens has even heard of the ICO, the group reported.
While awareness is important in order to paint a full picture of the data protection issues in the U.K., Which? executive director Richard Lloyd believes action is equally crucial.
“Banks and building societies hold incredibly sensitive information and the impact on customers can be serious if they mishandle it, from affecting credit ratings to leaving people open to fraud,” Lloyd said, according to the Telegraph.
Furthermore, Lloyd believes regulators in the U.K., whose efforts have intensified during the past few years, should come down harder on banks found guilty of data security flaws.
“Consumers who suffer financial loss or stress as a result of data mismanagement by firms should be entitled to compensation,” Lloyd added. “Regulators need to impose much tougher sanctions on firms who are lax with people’s data as the message clearly isn’t getting through.”
Barclays, with 116 complaints of data breach incidents, was the biggest offender, according to Which?, while Lloyds TSB and Santander were each pointed out in 114 and 103 complaints, respectively.
Data protection may be an issue in the global banking industry, as is suggested by a recent high-profile data breach in the United States. Bank of America was reportedly the victim of an insider breach that will cost it at least $10 million, Secret Service special agent James Kollar said in a recent interview with IDG News Service.