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Do You Know Who is Looking at Your Privates?

By Laura Salvas     Dec 9, 2005 in Business
Digital Journal — Although a vast majority of Canadians are concerned about the privacy of their personal information, more than half of Canadian companies admit confidential and private data is at risk.
A survey conducted by Leger Marketing shows that 55 per cent of companies say customer information is not safe and secure. The survey also showed that 58 per cent of consumers would immediately terminate their relationship with a company that compromised the safety of personal information.
These numbers conflict with the 98 per cent of business leaders who say they believe it is important for companies to ensure private data is protected.
"Smart enterprises know security and privacy are good for business, and yet many companies in Canada and around the world don't take this message to heart," says Andy Canham, president of Sun Microsystems of Canada, who helped sponsor the survey.
Although more than a third of Canadians would go so far as to pursue legal action against a company that compromised their security, the same number of business leaders say they have no clue how much financial impact a security breach would have on their company. Just more than a quarter of large-business leaders estimate such a breach could cost their company more than $1 million.
Most companies concerned about security feel the greatest danger rests in the hands of an uninformed employee, and 46 per cent of business leaders say the greatest risk comes from the accidental download of viruses, spyware or adware.
"This is not a simple business issue. It's a fundamental matter of trust," says George Kerns, president and CEO of Fusepoint Managed Services, another company involved in the research.
Managing personal information has earned lots of media play over the last few years, as there have been a number of security breaches that involved the misplacement or theft of confidential info.
Earlier this fall in Toronto, personal health records were scattered over the streets of the downtown core after a production company making a film about 9/11 purchased paper from a recycling company. Someone working on the set noticed the sheets contained information from an X-ray/ultrasound clinic. The papers had been collected by a paper disposal company who mistakenly believed the documents were to be recycled, not destroyed.
Also, in January 2003, an employee at a data management firm in Regina stole a hard drive containing sensitive information on more than one million people in Saskatchewan. The drive contained files from mutual funds and life insurance companies, the workers’ compensation board, the ministries of health and finance, and other private companies.
The drive was recovered by police the following month, but the confidential information was gone. Police said an employee stole the computer for personal use at home and cleared the drive of all confidential data. But that story did not calm the people affected, as a class-action lawsuit was launched against the firm for what is thought to be the biggest information privacy breach in Canadian history.
In Canada, 14 per cent of consumers believe they have already been a victim of identity theft.
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