Americans believe businesses more trustworthy than government

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People don’t trust the US government to secure their private information, a survey* by Information Technology Association of America revealed.

Most of the 1,000 adults surveyed by phone about the government’s ability to safeguard their personal data said businesses are more trustworthy.

Survey participants were asked if the recent security lapses at Los Alamos National Laboratory make them concerned about computer security in general. Fifty-one percent were more concerned, 2% were less concerned and 38% said the events made no difference in their thinking on computer security.

Concern about computer crime makes 63% of respondents less likely to provide personal data to the government, and the possible misuse of government-held data worries an overwhelming 81% of Americans.

“This survey is a wake-up call for both government and industry,” said ITAA president Harris N. Miller. “Though the Internet revolution is only a few years old, people expect that when it comes to their information security and privacy, we had better grow up fast.”

“Government has been doing a lot of talking about privacy and security recently. The survey results suggest that Americans are significantly more concerned about computer security as a result of the security lapses at Los Alamos, and that Americans believe government should get its own house in order.

Miller continued: “Protecting personal data held by the government must be a higher priority, and threats, whether they come from insiders, international criminals or thrill-seeking hackers, must be stopped.”

Americans say they trust the innovators and entrepreneurs in businesses versus the government to do a better job of protecting data on computers. Twice as many Americans responded that businesses do a better job than government. Forty-two percent said businesses do a better job, compared to 21% who said government do a better job.

Americans also say they prefer expertise over spending tax dollars as the best way to address security concerns. When told that a recent Congressional scorecard graded the security of government agency computers at a “D-,” Americans preferred appointing a government chief information officer to remedy the situation to spending more tax dollars by more than three to one.

In a related finding, 72% said they don’t feel digital signatures are secure enough to use on legal documents. If this distrust continues, it could be a potential barrier to the growth of e-government, which includes electronic tax filing, downloading forms, or registering a vehicle online.

“ITAA has advocated that businesses, not the government, are best able to address security and privacy concerns through technology and expertise. It seems the American public agrees,” Miller said. “However, business and government must work together to solve the security problems of federal computers, so that the overall environment of e-government and e-commerce is a safe place for consumers.”

The Information Technology Association of America plays the leading role in issues including information security, taxes and finance policy, digital intellectual property protection, telecommunications competition, workforce and education, immigration, online privacy and consumer protection, government IT procurement, human resources and e-commerce policy.

*Keeping the Faith: Government Information Security in the Internet Age. The telephone poll of 1,000 adults was conducted over September 30 – October 3, 2000 by Fabrizio, McLaughlin and Associates and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent. Survey results and demographics will be available for purchase for $500 for ITAA members and $750 for non-members.

Information Technology Association of America

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