Poll: Identity Theft Concerns Rise

Most Americans are worried that technology is being used to invade their privacy, a sharp spike from five years ago. And even more -- seven in 10 adults -- are concerned they could become victims of online identify theft at some point in the future, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds.

After a spate of revelations of major identity-theft cases, 57 percent now express worry that computers and technology are prying into their private lives -- up from 42 percent in 2000 and 38 percent in 1994. Moreover, 72 percent are concerned about the possibility their personal records could be stolen over the Internet.

Concern About Computers Being Used to Invade Your Privacy
1994 38%
A Lot 9
Some 29
2000 42
A Lot 15
Some 26
Now 57
A Lot 23
Some 34

These worries follow reports of unauthorized use of personal information stored by companies including Bank of America, ChoicePoint, DSW Inc. and Lexis-Nexis, and subsequent calls from Congress for laws to reign in so-called data brokers. As things stand, this ABC News/Washington Post poll finds, 84 percent of Americans think such companies are not doing enough on their own to protect personal privacy.

Sampling, data collection and tabulation for this poll were done by TNS.
In addition to the recent events, the public's increased privacy worries likely are also linked to the decade-long rollout of the Internet and the increasing accessibility of personal data it's created.

In light of that trend, a more positive result is the lack of an increase in the number of Americans reporting actual experiences with identity theft. And 22 percent say they've had a credit card number or other personal information stolen at some point, precisely the same as in March 2001.

Data Brokers

Faith in data companies' security measures is directly related to concerns about personal information. Among people who think these companies are not doing enough to protect records, 62 percent are worried that their privacy is being invaded, and 76 percent are concerned about identity theft in the future. Among those who think data protection is adequate, far fewer share these worries.

Current Data Protection
Enough Not Enough
Worried Your Privacy Is Being Invaded 37% 62
Concerned About Security of Personal Records 52 76


This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone March 10-13 among a random national sample of 1,001 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation were done by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

Click here for PDF version with full questionnaire and results.

You can find more ABC News polls in our Poll Vault.