Who is Responsible for Protecting Your Data?

Recent data breaches that hit major retailers over last year’s holiday season put data security in the news. There has since been a struggle – pitting merchants against financial institutions — to determine just who is responsible for protecting customer financial data. But what do consumers think of all this?

Some new research suggests that consumers put most of the responsibility for protecting their data on merchants, with financial institutions and government entities playing a minor role.

Big data science company Feedzai said that the findings of its recent online poll show that consumers are both alarmed by the vulnerability of their personal data, and have a clear idea of who is mainly responsible for protecting it.

The survey found that, among consumers who were aware of the retailer data breaches, 60% say that merchants are responsible for preventing future incidents. Only 13% put the responsibility on banks.

This isn’t really surprising, since news reports of the data breaches focused prominently on the retailers affected – namely Target and Neiman Marcus. So, of course consumers would focus their ire on the retailer side of the equation.

But these findings will nonetheless provide fuel for the ongoing debate raging among major players in the payments food chain. A war of press releases has recently broken out among merchant trade group The National Retail Federation and groups representing financial institutions. Payments technology giants MasterCard and Visa have recently joined the fray as well.

What the “big boys” are focused on right now is the adoption of technologies such as EMV “chip in card” technology – that promise to make consumer credit and debit cards more secure. Merchant groups focus on adopting these technologies as a fix, while financial institutions say that retailers need to do their bit to guard customer data, and pick up the tab when breaches occur.

In the end, the fix will probably involve a range of measures, with banks, payments technology firms, data security experts and retailers all playing a role in improving data security.

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