Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The illegal trade in data: According to an Avira survey, 63% of people do not believe that it occurs in isolated cases

Only 5% of those surveyed do not take any special precautions concerning the security of their data or data loss, one in four believes its the statutory duty of the company to supply information.

Tettnang, 17 February 2009 – "I hereby consent to personal data being passed on to affiliated companies" – an established clause, which often pops up in competitions, fitness center contracts and loyalty cards used by department stores and gas stations. Once signed, such an agreement can have a myriad of consequences: Unsolicited telemarketing and mailshots or in the worst case illegal debit entries on a bank account.

Over the last couple of months, bad news has mounted up concerning illegal trade using private addresses. The account data of an estimated 20 million Germans has been traded illegally, many call centers have become the subject of investigations and consumer watchdogs have raised their concerns. This has caused 25% of Internet users to call for tougher laws against the trade in data. Only 5% of consumers do not take any special precautions concerning the security of their data, believing that such cases only represent an exception. Almost two thirds of those surveyed (63 percent) believe that illegal business involving personal data is nothing new and was well established in the past, the only difference being that the cases had not become the subject of public attention. This was the result of an Avira poll of 4,756 visitors to www.free-av.com website.

What counts as personal data, where is it generated and how is it evaluated? As Rainer Witzgall, Executive Vice President at Avira explains, “According to the EU data protection Directive, personal data is all information concerning a certain or ascertainable natural person. Nearly all electronic and non-electronic data traces which we leave behind in everyday life count as being part of this protected personal data.” In the digital world, it is harder to leave behind no trace at all – whether using a mobile phone, a loyalty card or when surfing the world wide web. The trade in data is a sensitive area which often goes deep into the private domain of citizens and at the same time, is characterized by a lack of transparency. The sensitive handling of data is an internal company process with little outward visibility and a limited ability to check if it’s appropriate.

An optimistic 7% of users have trust however and take the data thieves as being isolated cases which will be subjected to tougher laws in the future. As Witzgall goes on to state, “In view of the data collection and analysis possibilities which are increasing in pace, coordinated procedures are necessary so that the private domain does not fall victim to technical developments and business interests. A combination of legal protection, informed consumers and self-regulating companies would be a step in the right direction.”

About Avira

Avira protects people in the connected world – enabling everyone to manage, secure, and improve their digital lives. The Avira umbrella covers a portfolio of security and performance applications for Windows, Android, Mac, and iOS. In addition, the reach of our protective technologies extends through OEM partnerships. Our security solutions consistently achieve best-in-class results in independent tests for detection, performance, and usability. Avira is a privately-owned company that employs 500 people. Its headquarters are near Lake Constance, in Tettnang, Germany, and the company has additional offices in Romania, India, Singapore, China, Japan & the United States. A portion of Avira's sales support the Auerbach Foundation, which assists education, children, and families in need. For more information about Avira visit www.avira.com.