Over the past five years, 43 US states have adopted data breach notification laws, but has all of this legislation actually cut down on identity theft? Not according to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University who have published a state-by-state analysis of data supplied by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
“There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that the laws actually reduce identity theft,” said Sasha Romanosky, a Ph.D student at Carnegie Mellon who is one of the paper’s authors.
Romanosky’s team took a state-by-state look at FTC identity theft complaints filed between 2002 and 2006 to see whether there was a noticeable impact on complaints in states that had adopted data breach notification laws such as California’s SB 1386, which compels companies and institutions to notify state residents when their personal information has been lost or stolen. Their paper is set to be presented at a conference on Information Security Economics held at Dartmouth College later this month.
Since 1999 the FTC has invited identity theft victims to log information about their cases on its Web site. The data are then made accessible to law enforcement, which uses the information to help analyze crime trends. A lot of people complain, but it represents only a subsection of all identity theft cases. In 2006, for example, the FTC logged 246,035 identity theft complaints, while a Javelin Strategy survey estimated that there were 8.9 million ID theft victims that year. (link)