What’s Stopping Your Colleagues From Trusting You With Encrypted Data?

Trust is an important factor in all workplaces, but when it comes to information and cyber security it takes on an even more prominent role. The vast majority of UK businesses will be under some degree of obligation to protect certain information and data. That includes financial data, corporate secrets, the data of their people, customers or all of the above. So trust is essential between colleagues. We asked 1,000 UK adults in full-time employment how much they trusted their colleagues when handling sensitive information like this.

Colleagues Trust

On average, the majority (72%) said they trusted the people in charge of doing so to take care of sensitive information and personal data. But this figure varies according to the size of the organisation. 

Trust Begins

While this may seem like a fair endorsement across the board, that's still more than a quarter of people who don't trust those tasked with data protection to do it properly.

Sensitive Data

The larger the organisation, the lower the trust between colleagues. It appears that for people to trust their colleagues implicitly, both in general and with sensitive information, knowing them personally and having an idea about their likely conduct plays a key part.

For organisations with more than 199 people, that figure dipped to 67%. For organisations with more than 299 people, it dropped to 61%. In fact, being able to assess a person’s prior conduct personally is more influential on colleague trust than a number of other factors. We asked study participants to think about asking a colleague to take care of sensitive personal data and what factors would influence whether they would trust them to do so or not. The findings revealed that people are more likely to trust colleagues they know personally, regardless of their qualifications for handling data.

Data Encryption

For example, if you think your status within the organisation means your colleagues will trust you, you’re wrong. The job title is of little consequence. Just 8% said that was their primary influencing factor for trusting someone. The most influential factor in whether your colleagues trust you is your previous conduct. For that to have an influence, you’ll need a personal relationship with every other person within the organisation, explaining why trust is higher in companies with lower headcounts. Your general demeanour is more influential on trust than your reputation.

People are more or less likely to trust you according to how they perceive you rather than how others talk about you. Top factors that influence trust between colleagues: Please select the factor below that would most influence whether you’d trust a colleague to take care of sensitive personal data.

Trust factor %
Previously witnessed conduct 21.2
Attitude/demeanour 18.8
Seniority within organisation 10.1
Reputation among other colleagues 9.9
Professional qualifications 9
Length of time within organisation 8.1
Job role/job title 7.9
Pay grade 7.5
Previously held role 5.2
Other 2.3

Steve Roberts of Online Spy Shop believes workers are correct to be sceptical of trusting colleagues with data, but they should be wary of favouring people they know over people they don't. "Handling sensitive data comes with a large set of very important responsibilities. If people in organisations around the UK think carefully about who to trust with the data they care about, that's a good thing.

But this study suggests that people are deciding who they trust based on their perceptions of that person rather than their qualifications, experience or - most importantly - justification for holding that data. "As we've seen recently, corporate data breaches can spell PR disaster for any organisation.

So it's really important to implement systems and processes that protect sensitive data and individuals within the company. Unauthorised personnel should not have to decide whether they handle data - it shouldn't be on them to make that call. If it is, the system has already failed. "Only authorised, qualified personnel should be getting close to sensitive or personal data in the first place, regardless of how others within the organisation perceive them." The study polled 1,000 UK adults between June 1st 2017, and June 8th 2017. You can view the poll data below.

Trust factors:

Trust factor Total responses %
Previously witnessed conduct - 212 21.2
Attitude/demeanour 188 18.8
Seniority within organisation 101 10.1
Reputation among other colleagues 99 9.9
Professional qualifications 90 9
Length of time within organisation 81 8.1
Job role/job title 79 7.9
Pay grade 75 7.5
Previously held role 52 5.2
Other 23 2.3


Do you trust your employer's I.T team to safely handle your private data? Total responses %
Yes 720 72.00%
No 280 28.00%