Privacy concerns as 4.5 million devices returned to UK employers 'may hold personal data'

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·2-min read
Although party leaders in Nevada are vowing not to use any kind of app to tally the results of their Feb. 22 caucuses, it remains unclear what they will use instead. (Getty Images)
As England weathers a second lockdown, and other parts of the UK ramp up restrictions, the number of devices returned to employers is set to increase further. Photo: Getty Images

Millions of people facing furlough and redundancy could also be in for a data protection headache, as half of devices still hold personal information on them when they are handed back.

According to research by asset disposal service DSA Connect, 26% of those furloughed or made redundant have had to give back electronic devices to work. In 50% of cases these had information such as bank and credit card details, personal passwords, and photos on them.

DSA Connect estimates that so far 4.5 million devices have been handed back to employers.

As England weathers a second lockdown, and other parts of the UK ramp up restrictions, the number of devices returned to employers is set to increase further.

DSA Connect commissioned the market research company Consumer Intelligence to interview 1,029 people between 16 and 18 October 2020.

Harry Benham, chairman of DSA Connect, said: “There is a mountain of electronic devices that have been returned to employers due to staff being made redundant or furloughed during the crisis.

“Employers should be looking to clean these devices professionally, ensuring that all data is wiped from them so that they can be reused by staff or sold. Sadly, in too many cases this is not done properly, and new users inadvertently find themselves able to access confidential data they shouldn’t be seeing.”

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The COVID-19 pandemic has seen job losses hit across a swathe of industries. In October, unemployment surged to its highest point for three years, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.

Recent research from Which? has shown that when data breaches at companies occur following a cyberattack, stolen information such as passwords or credit card and bank details can be sold onto fraudsters.

A survey of Which? members revealed 46% of people whose data was stolen by hackers following a breach at a large company went on to experience fraud.

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