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Almost 50% of internet users are falsifying the data that companies ask them to hand over when signing up for services online, according to new research.

Digital advertising and marketing contribute to a global industry worth hundreds of billions of pounds, but the data which underpins that industry may not be very reliable.

Research commissioned by security company RSA has found that 49% of people are falsifying information about themselves online because they are concerned about companies managing to hold that data securely.

According to the research, the most commonly falsified types of personal information include:

:: Phone number (27%)
:: Date of birth (17%)
:: Email address (16%)
:: Home address (15%)
:: Name and age (both at 14%)

TalkTalk received a record £400,000 fine in the wake of a breach of customer data in 2015, after unskilled hackers managed to access that data "with ease" – and the company is still struggling to recover from the associated fallout.

Almost four out of five web users say that a company's reputation in regards to how securely it holds customer data informs their purchasing decisions and 70% of customers said they would boycott companies which didn't seriously work to protect their data.

Up to 90% of people said they feared that companies would lose their data, and 62% of consumers said that they would blame the company if it was lost before anyone else, including the hacker.

The research is published ahead of the implementation of radical new data laws which have been developed by the EU over the last few years.

The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) will become UK law on 25 May, and will remain UK law after Brexit as part of the Government's Data Protection Bill.

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"As milestone regulation, such as GDPR, comes into effect this year, data security and privacy are hot on the agenda for consumers and companies alike," said Rashmi Knowles of RSA Security.

"Consumers are keenly aware of recent high profile breaches, and are therefore demanding much more from the companies that handle their data.

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