As more and more information is being created, shared, accessed, and stored via the Internet and cloud technologies, more and more opportunities seem to arise for criminals to gain access to and steal people’s identities and other personal information. This is a growing concern on several fronts: a) individuals are affected through financial loss and having their lives disrupted as a result of identity theft; b) businesses also experience financial loss as well as loss of reputation, especially when customers loss faith in those businesses and those businesses’ abilities to safeguard consumers’ private information; and c) an increasing number of individuals using social media and not appreciating the impact of failing to protect their personal information. It is the many interrelated dimensions of identity theft and protecting personal information that prompted me to choose this topic. I believe this topic is relevant to both my personal life and my work just as it is for any individual who lives and works in modern technological societies. So much of our personal lives and business are conducted on the Internet that it is surprising that more and more people are not concerned about identity theft and protecting their personal information.
Issues related to identity theft and protecting personal information have impacted several different areas including productivity and privacy and security. It is easy to conceive how identity theft and protecting personal information are economic and legal concerns for individuals and organizations. The theft of one’s resources or a negative impact to an organization’s bottom line cannot be ignored. But it is only through defining the full impact of such issues that their seriousness can be fully appreciated and perhaps better prevented.

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Productivity is a significant issue, particularly for organizations and their employees. The focus of many employees and the organizations they serve is to fulfill the goals and mission of the organization in an efficient, cost-effective manner. However, identity theft and protecting personal information can exert certain influences and affect the ways in which those employees and the organizations they serve go about conducting business. Target and Neiman Marcus both experience significant data breaches during the holiday season of 2013 which resulted in the theft of millions of customers’ credit card data (Arlitsch & Edelman, 2014). Adobe likewise experienced a data breach which resulted in the compromise of their customers’ records (Arlitsch & Edelman, 2014). These companies had to go public with these breaches which likely caused them to lose customers which meant a loss of revenue. It also meant a loss of reputation. This forced the companies to make reparations and take additional steps to strengthen their cybersecurity efforts. However, these problems have also prompted state and federal governments to create laws to protect consumers and businesses (Haygood & Hensley, 2006).

Such laws influence the way that organizations conduct business which in turn influences the way that the employees carry out their tasks. Businesses that require the use of Social Security numbers for customer records or other purposes are in a particularly sensitive position, given that Social Security numbers are legally-issued national identifiers and are frequently used for both identification and authentication (Haygood & Hensley, 2006). Furthermore, such laws have made it necessary for organizations and businesses to publicly disclose when data breaches occur (much like Target and Neiman Marcus did) and to take steps to mitigate the impact of data breaches (Haygood & Hensley, 2006).

Another area deeply and obviously affected by identity theft and protecting personal information is privacy and security. The theft of someone’s identity is basically the theft of privacy and security. Stealing someone’s identity can result in the loss of financial resources and access to one’s own personal accounts (Cassim, 2015). It can also affect the individual in other ways, such as their reputation or legally (Cassim, 2015). Haygood and Hensley (2006) discuss the case of Michael Berry, a Washington, D.C.-based political activist, who had his identity stolen; the perpetrator not only opened a new credit card in Berry’s name, he racked up hundreds of purchases, leading to Berry being unable to open a new, legitimate credit card. Furthermore, the man who had stolen Berry’s identity, Demorris Hunter, was a convicted felon who was also wanted for the murder of a young woman; things got worse when America’s Most Wanted aired a segment about Hunter in which the show warned that Hunter was using Berry’s info as an alias, even to including that information (as well as Berry’s actual Social Security number) on the show’s website (Haygood & Hensley, 2006). Berry lived in fear that routine encounters with law enforcement could turn into arrests or rose and though Hunter was apprehended, Berry is still in the process of clearing up the problems Hunter caused (Haygood & Hensley, 2006). But even when people take steps to protect their identities and personal information, organizations can leave people’s information vulnerable. Sometimes organizations unwittingly or unthinkingly post information on the web which can lead to identity theft (Milne, Rohm, & Bahl, 2004). This is why both individuals and organizations have an obligation to carefully protect sensitive information.

As long as society continues to use the Internet and other electronic means for conducting business and gathering and storing information, there will likely be problems with identity theft and protecting personal information. As long as organizations and businesses gather and share and/or fail to adequately secure customer/client information, there will likely be these problems. Many industries face these problems and the possible legal, financial, and other penalties. As an individual, I recognize the need for carefully protecting my identity and information and will take steps now and in the future to protect my interests.

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