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Source: Privacy And American Business

Posted on June 29, 2005

      Twenty percent of people responding to a new Privacy & American Business (P&AB) and Deloitte & Touche LLP survey report that they have personally been a victim of identity fraud or theft. The survey sample was selected to be representative of the total U.S. population, according to the 2004 U.S. Census. If the data is projected, the results would suggest that 44 million American adults have ever been a victim of identity fraud or theft - an increase of nine million victims since 2003 (P&AB's 2003 ID Theft Survey and Trend Report).

      "Our survey shows that there does not seem to be a plateau as yet in the instances of identity theft, despite major attempts by business and government to stem the tide," said Alan Westin, Columbia University Professor Emeritus and President & Publisher, P&AB.

      The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, also found that 64 percent of respondents have decided not to purchase something from a company because they weren't sure how their personal information would be used. Sixty-seven percent of respondents have decided not to register at a website or shop online because they found the privacy policy too complicated or unclear. If the data is projected to reflect the U.S. population, then more than 140 million U.S. adults have decided not to purchase something from a company and some 109 million online adult consumers say they have decided not to register at a website or shop online.

      The survey also found that there is remarkably high awareness - across all demographic categories - of recently reported consumer or employee personal data breaches. Eighty-seven percent of respondents said they have read or heard about personal consumer data being stolen or disclosed in error by a company, university or government agency.

      "There is a significant portion of the population that is becoming increasingly concerned about identity theft, and it is influencing their purchasing decisions" said Rena Mears, partner and leader of the privacy services group of Deloitte & Touche. "Companies need to understand this and leverage the internal control improvements they have made as a result of Sarbanes-Oxley to increase the integrity and security around the personal information they hold for their customers."

      Other survey findings included:
- 78 percent of respondents agreed that consumers have lost all control over how personal information is collected and used by companies;
- Half believed that businesses were not handling their personal information in a proper and confidential way;
- 59 percent did not agree that existing laws and organizational practices provide a reasonable level of protection for consumer privacy today.

      A surprising finding in the survey is that even though the number of identity theft victims has increased and a large majority of Americans are aware of data leakages, the basic division of Americans' privacy attitudes remains virtually unchanged:
- High Privacy Concern: 34 percent (35 percent in 2004);
- Balanced Privacy Concern: 55 percent (54 percent in 2004);
- Low Privacy Concern: 11 percent (13 percent in 2004).

      A full survey report will be made available in July at www.pandab.org and featured in the June issue of P&AB. For more information, contact Irene Oujo at 201-996-1154 or ioujo@pandab.org.

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