For the second time in a week, a report has been released that documents Americans' high level of concern regarding data privacy and fears of identity theft. Seventy-eight percent of the 2,322 adults surveyed believe that consumers have lost all control of who collects their data and how the information is used. Though this survey does not register opinions on the the lack of action by U.S. government agencies, it does extrapolate that as many as 140 million U.S. adults have foregone shopping online because of concern regarding personal data theft.
What does the U.S. government think THAT will gouge out of the economy?
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 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
Harris Interactive conducted this online survey within the United States on behalf of Privacy & American Business and Deloitte between May 4 and 10, 2005 among a nationwide cross section of 2,322 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used where appropriate to adjust for respondents propensity to be online. Though this online sample is not a probability sample, in theory, with probability samples of this size, one could say with 95 percent certainty that the overall results have a sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points. Sampling error for sub-samples of African Americans (131), Whites (1,989), Hispanics (123), those with disabilities (490) and those aged 30-39 (446) is higher and varies.
About Privacy & American Business
Privacy & American Business (www.pandab.org and featured in the June issue of P&AB. For more information, contact Irene Oujo at (201) 996-1154 or firstname.lastname@example.org. www.pandab.org, www.PrivacyExchange.org, & www.pjobs.org), is an activity of the Center for Social & Legal Research, a non-profit, non-partisan public policy think tank exploring U.S. and global issues of consumer and employee privacy and data protection since its launch in 1993.