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Its been almost one week since my Thanksgiving reminder about on-line commerce and data security. Have you made a decision to buy a product on-line yet? Have you received notification that your social security number has been exposed to hackers? If so, you are not alone. Discussing the topic of identity theft, an article in the on-line publication E-Weeek.com, citing the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse indicated,

[o]ver 97 million Americans have had confidential information exposed since February 2005, and the pace of these data breaches continues to increase

According to this article, fifty-nine percent of all technology professionals surveyed are “much more wary of online shopping transactions than they were two years ago.” Technology professionals’ worries about electronic commerce do not seem to be a glowing endorsement of on-line commerce.

The article quotes a provider of enterprise-class vulnerability and risk management solutions who recommends:

With the escalation and sophistication of online threats, there is a need for a scoring system for consumers to gauge the relative security of online merchants.

I like this idea provided we can come up with an understandable scoring system. With the disclosure of security-related information to consumers, we all would be in a better position to judge for ourselves which security solutions adopted by on-line business would be most effective at preventing identity theft risks. Public disclosure of the companies making a substantial commitment to data security will no doubt improve business relations with consumers. I also believe that public disclosure of those coporations with a less-than-favorable data security record can provide incentive to businesses to make security improvements.

In the meantime, don’t choose an on-line business that only provides a PO Box and a telephone number to assist in case you have questions or concerns. Pay careful attention to the security policies in place at the on-line merchants you choose. Here’s again wishing you a happy and safe on-line shopping experience!

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