The California Consumer Affairs office says it has opened the first state agency in the United States to address consumer privacy. The Office of Privacy Protection will be chiefly concerned with identity theft, one of the fastest growing crimes in the nation, said Consumer Affairs Director Kathleen Hamilton. Identity theft cases are expected to mushroom this year, adding 500,000 to 750,000 victims nationwide, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. The average identity theft victim spends 175 hours and $800 to resolve the situation, according to a study from the California Public Interest Research Group and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.
The unveiling comes as California lawmakers mull over drafting legislation to restrict online access to public documents--considered the building blocks of identity theft. A genealogical Web site last week pulled more than 24 million California birth records after intense pressure from lawmakers and residents.