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This forum considered the ethical implications of technology’s role in identity theft. Identity theft was criminalized in 1998 by the Identity Theft Assumption and Deterrence Act (ITADA). Between 2001 and 2004 reports of the crime increased by 250%. It is the most prevalent form of fraud committed in the United States, has topped the FTC’s list consumer complaints since 2001 and has been described as the “fastest growing crime in America.” California has the 4th highest identity theft victimization rate below Arizona, DC, and Nevada. The FTC estimates approximately 8 million people experienced identity theft in 2005 and total losses were nearly $16 billion. Offenders are seldom detected and rarely apprehended; the average clearance rate is 11 %. So what are the ethics of identity theft? Should banks and credit card companies take more responsibility in controlling the information they send through the mail? Does the use of technology and the Internet make ID theft inevitable or are their technological protections that could be introduced? What should you do to limit your vulnerability as a potential victim? Are we all guilty of technological irresponsibility?
Pam Dixon is an author, researcher, and the executive director and founder of the World Privacy Forum, an internationally recognized non-profit public interest research group focused on conducting research on societal and human rights topics, particularly those where privacy intersects with technology.
Dixon’s current research work in privacy is focused in the area of health, online privacy, workplace, and data flows (including Internet and trans-border data flows).
Sharla Evert has been a Deputy District Attorney since 1996. She currently is assigned to the Economic Crimes Division handling identity theft and complex litigation. Her prior rotations include Family Protection, Juvenile, and South Bay. Sharla also has provided in-house training to new DDAs and has been a member of the adjunct faculty at San Diego State University since 1999.