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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Statistics Are Boring...Unless They're Yours

When statistical surveys are taken, they use a cross-section of the U.S. to determine the probable answers to certain questions. Based on the replies from this random sampling, public opinion is measured, and conclusions drawn on issues such as privacy. The results are designed to represent the average “you,” the consumer…so, this post is directed to that happy medium.

The reason I bring all this up are two surveys I ran into recently; one re. government’s priority for your privacy, the other the same, but for business. The results are so startling—actually horrifying—that I decided to dig further to resolve just how “you” react to this shabby treatment. But first, how business and government go about protecting your name and personal data.

In a recent Chief Information Officer (CIO) study, federal agencies don’t care about your privacy unless they are forced to by bad publicity. In an article from, “Survey: Agency programs to protect privacy inadequate,” by Daniel Pulliam, he remarks, “…privacy programs are slipping through the cracks and fewer agencies treat them as a priority…” The respondents were top federal CIO’s, one of which stated the law governing IT security, the “2002 Federal Information Security Management Act,” isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

Business didn’t fare any better. Some excerpts from a series of pieces done by Chief Security Officer Online: only 80 % have privacy or data protection strategy; 38 % believe their resources couldn’t adequately manage the privacy of your personal data; only 31 % are prepared to notify you in case of a breach. /MORE/ Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) reports that 61 U.S. companies experienced breaches of your private information in just the first half of 2005. /MORE/ A report by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that 65 % of you feel secure online and 75 % believe that a website’s privacy policy translates to the fact they will not share your personal data. Both, of course, are incorrect assumptions. /MORE/

If you are hooked on numbers, go to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC), and Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) for a collection of surveys and statistics on privacy-related matters that are unsurpassed, as far as I am concerned. And now, some of the many faces of “you.”

Over 9 million of you were victims of identity fraud in 2005, which was down from 2003, according to Javelin Research. However, what it cost you and the time to fix it, did go up. That means the crooks are getting more sophisticated.

The balance of statistics is listed in chronological order with the newest first. According to the Washington Post in January of 2006, 64 % of you thought federal agencies were intruding on your privacy rights in investigating terrorism, with 44% concerned that Bush would exceed his limits in order to investigate terrorism.

A whopping 32% placed your personal privacy above investigating possible terrorist threats… recruits for my new independent party based on privacy! In another Annenberg survey, an alarming number of you have false beliefs over the safety of your private information in the marketplace.

A Harris Poll found that 35% of you have “very high privacy concerns,” and 79% feel it is extremely important that the personal data collected on you is controlled. According to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, a majority of you are concerned that business and government would violate your privacy. The same study showed that another 52% of you have “very little” or “no confidence at all” that business uses your private information properly.

Eighty-nine percent of you are concerned about privacy, and 54% want Congress to pass legislation to protect your personal data. The statistics go on, but this is decidedly the place to end this post.

Join with me to get that federal legislation passed that will give you control over your private information, and will also pay you when it is sold. Write or e-mail your congressional representatives, send letters to your newspaper’s editorial page, call local TV and talk radio, and tell them all you aren’t going to take it anymore. And, of course…be sure to tell them I sent you!

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