By Daniel Hunter

One in three British employees would take their company’s contact lists on departure, one in six knows someone who did, and 4% admitted to having taken such lists themselves.

Safetica, a provider of employee monitoring and data leakage protection software, has commissioned research in the UK — carried out by TNS Omnibus — which would help understand how British employees treat (confidential) contact lists of customers or business partners, belonging to their company.

Gathering self-incriminating data is always difficult, as most don’t want to tell they did something bad, so we expect the numbers of those that actually took data are higher than were admitted. But even working with these numbers, we can spot an increase in those that “would take data when leaving” over the last couple of years. In SailPoint’s 2010 study, 22% of British employees said they would, compared to 31% in our latest study. So, what we have now is about a third of people who do not approve of stealing data from a company versus another third that would do it.

Digging deeper into the demographics of the survey reveals other interesting details, but this part should be taken a bit more lightly, as several of these sub-statistic results had under 50 answers, which would tend to have a larger margin of error, and could cause subjective understanding of the results.

Females appear to be either less likely to steal data, or lie about it better than men as only 1% admitted to having taken data, compared to 7% of men. Intriguing indeed, particularly as the “would take data when leaving” answer difference was much smaller, with women at 29% and men at 33%.

The youngest age group 16-24 seemed to have most integrity, with 26% that would and 3% having taken data, while the 45-54 age group don’t want to take any chances when switching jobs, as 35% would and 5% did take it.

A look at the regional statistics is also interesting. The North East and Yorkshire seem most honest, as 26% would take the data, but none actually did, followed closely by the Welsh, where the same percentage would, and 4% say they did. The other side of the coin is the North West, as there 38% would and 6% did take the data. The highest percentage of those who do not approve of such actions was scored by Scotland and Wales, with 38%, and the lowest was in the South east of England, with 23%.

Every company would have to evaluate for themselves, what their contact lists of customers or partners mean to them and whether it can be damaging to them if they end up in unauthorised hands. In many cases customer lists can fall under the legislation of existing data protection and privacy laws and regulations, so their loss could put a company in legal difficulties, while the upcoming EU data breach legislation will also require companies to monitor and report data loss incidents.

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