Psychology and data breaches: the emotional impact of privacy violations

The sheer scale of the information we share with organisations is enough to leave us all open to the threat of financial and identity fraud. But, when talking about the real-life impact of data breaches, we often don’t consider the effect on an individual’s mental state.

Data breach and cyber crime specialist Hayes Connor interviewed renowned clinical psychologist Professor Hugh C. H. Koch to find out more.

 Is the prevalence of data breaches contributing to increased stress levels?

People are certainly more aware of the potential risks. The storage and changing of passwords also raises concerns about security. This increased awareness can, in some cases, result in individuals becoming stressed and worried about adverse consequences.

What are the typical psychological effects on victims of data breaches?

Data breach victims typically experience high levels of anxiety, both specific to the data breach itself and generalised to other aspects including dealing with correspondence, telephone and digital communications and the payment of services.

Victims can also experience social anxiety including difficulties in dealing with friends and neighbours, tradesmen and shopping transactions following a data breach.

How are the principles and methods for investigating the psychological injuries following a data breach evolving?

As a result of the increased volumes of data breach incidents, lawyers and experts are using their respective skills to assess the psychological and social consequences, symptoms and injuries.

Do organisations who hold our information understand the full psychological impact experienced by individuals following a data breach?

Learning how individuals are adversely affected by data breach events is a gradual process. Organisations should improve security practices to prevent further occurrences.

How are psychologists and lawyers collaborating in this area?

Collaboration between lawyers and psychologists will result in clear and reliable assessments of the psychological effects of data breaches both on individuals and their families. In some cases, once an assessment takes place, some form of treatment may be appropriate to rectify any residual or ongoing problems.

To read the interview in full, including Professor Koch’s views on whether the ICO needs to be educated on the potential psychological injuries following a data breach and whether current laws go far enough to recognise the emotional distress involved, visit the Hayes Connor  website here.


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