The public have greater fears about entrusting their personal data to public sector organisations than those in the private sector, a new survey has revealed. 

Research by IT products supplier Proband has found that 49 per cent of people are wary about sharing their data with public sector bodies, compared to 40 per cent for private sector firms. 

Both figures may be seen by some as high, and reflect wider public concerns about cyber-security in an age of organised crime, terrorism and alleged state-sponsored hacking emanating from countries like Russia.

However, the concerns are greater still when it comes to particular kinds of organisations. The survey showed 81 per cent are worried about their data security on council websites and 86 per cent are concerned when it comes to the NHS, which has been the subject of some major attacks in the past year. Indeed, the poll found 34 per cent feel less safe because of recent ransomware attacks on the health service. 

Marketing director at Proband Matt Royle commented: "These fears are not helped when organisations fall victim to cyberattacks and doubts are subsequently raised about these organisations’ security systems. 

"The public’s confidence in the security of these types of sites are clearly affected by these headlines."

Security concerns are far from the only complaints about public sector websites; less than half – 47 per cent – think the user experience is "good", while 21 per cent said such sites are hard to navigate.  An identical number think they fail to provide good online services, and 26 per cent believe they have too many gateways. 

Despite this, the survey indicated use of public sector websites is widespread. It showed 84 per cent of people have used online means to access services, ranging from HMRC to local council sites. This compares with 50 per cent who have used private sector sites such as phone providers and banks.

This contrast between usage and satisfaction may be a sign that many feel the best way to access some public sector services is online, and weigh this up against the risks involved. For some, the alternatives may be inconvenient, such as taking time out of a working day to visit an office.

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