A Fear of Identity Theft

There have been a couple of interesting surveys released recently which seem to indicate that fear of personal data loss is really breaking through the public consciousness on a level never seen before. OK, they’re looking at US data but I don’t think it’s too unfair to extrapolate the results across the Atlantic as indicative of the mindset in other Western developed countries.

The first was a survey from Chapman University which showed the top five things that Americans fear the most are:-

  1. Walking alone at night
  2. Becoming the victim of identity theft
  3. Safety on the internet
  4. Being the victim of a mass/random shooting
  5. Public speaking

When asked what things worried them, the response of the US folk that were polled showed the following top areas of concern:

  1. Having identity stolen on the internet
  2. Corporate surveillance of internet activity
  3. Running out of money in the future
  4. Government surveillance of internet activity
  5. Becoming ill/sick

Similarly, another poll by Gallup reported the top two concerns were:-

  1. Having the credit card information you used at stores stolen by computer hackers
  2. Having your computer or smartphone hacked and the information stolen by unauthorised persons

It’s fascinating that issues of both identity and digital privacy really appear to be developing into part of the public’s consciousness. No doubt a significant part of this comes from the publicity around the rising frequency and severity of data breaches. But the reality is that we continue to use a system that’s entirely unfit for purpose when we transact with cards issued by an industry whose infrastructure often pre-dates the internet by many years.  And if your credit card details are one of the 56 million stolen after a visit to a certain home improvement chain, you start to see how damaging even one attack can be to the stereotypical man on the street.

Of course, transacting using a modern payment method that was actually designed for internet usage, relying on push (as opposed to pull) models for money transfer – such as, oh, I don’t know, Bitcoin for example – would solve that particular headache pretty swiftly.