Protecting yourself, Research, regulation, industry reports

Concerned about privacy and security online? You’re not alone

Connie Prater

Do you feel your credit card information is safe when you shop online? Two newly released reports may give you reason to pause before you answer that question.

Security breaches
First, the Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement with two online apparel retailers that claimed to have secure sites but nonetheless allowed credit card numbers, expiration dates, security codes and other sensitive customer data to be pirated. Life is Good Inc. and Life is Good Retail Inc. have agreed to beef up security and undergo independent audits for 20 years.

The case is just the latest to emerge over the past year, including the TJX retail data theft in Miami featured in a November 2007 “60 Minutes” story. TJX is the parent company of TJ Maxx and Marshalls stores.

GE Money, which handles credit card operations for retail giant J.C. Penney and many other retail stores, just revealed that account information for nearly 650,000 customers may be at risk because a computer tape has turned up missing. A GE Money spokesman told the Associated Press the company had sent letters to the customers whose information was stored on the missing tape and that “GE Money was paying for 12 months of credit-monitoring service for customers whose Social Security numbers were on the tape.”

Digital future poll
Second, privacy and security online were found to be a major concern in the latest installment of the University of Southern California’s annual technology survey.

The 2008 Digital Future Project found that online users continue to express concern about the security and privacy of their personal information when they shop online. The portion of the survey group expressing the highest level of concern increased in 2007, according to the study.

The survey found that 57 percent of the respondents indicated they felt the highest level of concern about making online credit card transactions.

This is the seventh year of the survey. The folks at USC have tracked more than 2,000 people from across the United States. Each year the same households are polled on their use (and non-use) of computers, the Internet and other technology.

Buyer beware
Given the security breaches mentioned above, it’s no wonder poll respondents are leery. Online security experts note that not all Web sites have the latest security programs. Smaller Web sites may pose greater security risks than larger sites when shopping.


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