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Survey: USPS Trusted on Privacy, But Not Government Overall

The U.S. Postal Service is the most trusted government agency when it comes to privacy protection, according to a recent Ponemon Institute LLC survey. Overall, however, government agencies fared worse in 2005 than the year before, suggesting that Americans are increasingly wary of breaches of their privacy.

The “2006 Privacy Trust Study of the United States Government” surveyed 6,000 Americans and sought to “understand the level of confidence Americans have in the many government agencies that routinely collect and use the public's personal data,” according to a USPS statement.

The USPS was among the few agencies to improve its privacy trust score. It received 82 percent for 2005, up 4 percentage points from 2004, according to the postal service. The study identified 10 factors to determine an agency's score. These included a sense of security when providing personal information, human contact, secure Web sites and access to personal information, according to the statement.

The Federal Trade Commission was second highest with a score of 78 percent, followed by the Internal Revenue Service at 74 percent, the statement said. But the average trust score of 47 percent was down 4 points from 2004.

The survey focused on whether the public believed the federal government's privacy commitments, said Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute, Elk Rapids, MI.

“We wanted to understand if people thought that these various agencies were actively protecting their privacy and controlling access to the information that was being provided,” he said.

Among respondents, 69 percent cited “loss of civil liberties and privacy rights” as their No. 1 concern, up 5 points from 2004, according to the statement. The second-ranked concern was “surveillance into personal life,” and third was “monitoring e-mail and Web activities.”

“The top three factors for creating trust, according to our study, are a sense of security when providing personal information, limited collection of personal information and one-to-one personal contact,” Ponemon said. “Respondents seem to agree that in their daily lives, the postal service delivers on all three and accordingly continues to earn and keep their trust and confidence.”

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