Would anyone really boycott a company over a data breach? Just ask TalkTalk.

Written as editor of the New Statesman’s NS Tech and first published here.

Apparently, it’s a yes, if you check out the latest figures from TalkTalk.

It suffered a cyber attack last year that saw 160,000 accounts accessed, with 21,000 bank account numbers and sort codes stolen. And it’s now revealed it lost 101,000 customers following the breach.

Its profits also more than halved in 2015 compared to the previous year – from £32m to £14m. Customer dissatisfaction, it seems, plus a massive payout for new, secure infrastructure, can hit you right in the wallet.

I really wasn’t convinced. People say they’ll boycott companies for all sorts of things: Apple because of how it treats Chinese workers, Google because of its visibility on data, Starbucks and Amazon because tax, McDonalds because it’s gross…

But can you really say you’ve never woken up on a Sunday morning with an empty Big Mac box next to you on the sofa?

New research from cybersecurity software firm FireEye appears to comfirm this increasing public awareness of shoddy data security.

The company found that in a survey of 1,000 UK consumers, 72% said they would boycott a brand because of a data breach.

Customers are already starting to withhold personal data, according to the survey, 62% refuse to hand over details to brands to prevent it from being mishandled.

As many as one in 10 actually said that data security is now their main consideration when purchasing goods or services.

Just over half of those surveyed also claimed they would even take legal action if their data was stolen.

This should be a bit of a wake up call to those businesses who have not yet suffered reputational damage from a data breach.

In Monday’s release of the government’s annual Cyber Security Breaches Survey, just 4% of more than 1,000 businesses asked said that a cyber attack had harmed their reputation.

But a staggering 90% of large firms and 74% of SMEs said they had suffered a data breach in the last year.

There won’t be any firms left to boycott if we continue to see figures like these.

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