Unsettling statistics: How your financial data is spread across the internet

Hundreds of companies have access to it, new research shows.

The fear of seeing your bank account drained is one that looms large over many of us. And the more organisations that have sight of your most precious financial data, the greater the likelihood of it being accidentally released or made less secure. Which is why new data from Mine, a platform helping consumers take ownership of their data online, is so alarming.

The global average person's data is held by 350 companies with around 60 keeping Brits’ financial data.

Worse, the number of companies holding a person’s financial data has grown during the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of data holders has ballooned by 400% since the world was locked down as we spend more money online, and therefore hand over some of our most secretive data on bank accounts and credit cards to more suppliers.

“As the world is slowly going back to normal, we expect to see a new hybrid way of consuming that will combine the digital world with the physical world,” says Gal Ringel, CEO and Co-founder of Mine. “People's financial data footprint has grown an astounding 400% since the start of the pandemic and I have no doubt the digital acceleration and use of remote services, including more online payments and sharing financial data, will continue as people utilise online services.”

Who holds the data?

Some of the biggest beasts in online retail are unsurprisingly the companies and services with which we’re sharing details of our financial accounts. The top companies holding Brits’ financial data are Paypal, Amazon and Apple, though eBay, Spotify and Argos – a UK retailer – also factor into the top 20 providers who hold our data. Eventbrite, which has become the de facto place to book tickets to events, including those held on Zoom during the pandemic, is also one of the organisations holding our data.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, 25% of the top 20 companies holding Brits’ financial data were travel companies such as Booking.com, Airbnb, Easyjet, Trainline and British Airways. However, the way we live and travel has changed – largely declining – and so the proportion of travel firms that factor into the top 20 holders of our data has dropped to just 10% now.

Gaming and entertainment has instead taken much of the places. Steampowered is in the ranks of popular companies, as are YouTube, Uber, Spotify and Coinbase.

Now, one in four of the top 20 companies Brits trust to hold on to their financial data are gaming companies.

Keeping data secure

As we spread our data across more providers, it becomes more important than ever that it’s kept secure. If not, the consequences could be catastrophic, particularly when we’re giving providers unfettered access to our bank accounts and credit cards.

“This trend, combined with on-going data breaches, highlights the importance of keeping a lean digital footprint by keeping track of who has our data - especially very sensitive data like our financial details,” says Ringel. “The onus also lies with businesses to make sure the financial data they hold is kept safe and sound, and importantly, once a user is done using the service, there are simple steps in to efficiently implement their ‘right to be forgotten.”

It’s vital to constantly check where you’re sending your data and who they’re sharing it with, and to try where possible to make sure that they’re not mishandling your data. This could involve asking for it to be regularly deleted when you leave or discontinue a service or product. Not doing so could be a disaster for you – and for your bank account and hard-earned cash.