ROCHESTER, N.Y. — An estimated 49 million adults in the U.S. indicate that they have been told that their personal information had been lost, stolen or improperly disclosed over the past three years.

A recent Harris Poll survey designed in collaboration with Dr. Alan F. Westin, professor of public law and Government Emeritus at Columbia University, and noted authority on privacy issues, reveals that most of this notification has come from government agencies and financial institutions. In addition, 81% of adults who have been notified about lost or stolen personal information perceive that nothing harmful happened to them as a result.

“We know from detailed studies of ID theft that many of these harms are caused by actions of friends and family of the victims, stolen wallets or purses, pilfering identifying information from mailboxes or trash containers, and from insider theft of personal data by employees of organizations,” Dr. Westin commented about the findings. “However, our survey shows that almost 10 million persons out of the almost 50 million persons notified of a data breach over the past three years believe that direct harm to them resulted from the breach. This documents the importance of business, government, and other types of organizations applying stronger data security measures when handling personal information–if they are to retain the trust of their customers, members, or citizens.” Here are some other survey findings: