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WASHINGTON-More consumers are refusing to disclose personal information as privacy concerns rise, a recent survey has found.

Consumers are more willing to take an active role in protecting their own privacy, with about 59% reporting cases where they've refused to provide requested data, up from 42% since 1990, according to the Equifax-Harris Mid Decade Consumer Privacy Survey, released at the second annual Privacy & American Business Conference here. About 59% of respondents say they have "refused to give information to a business or company because they thought it was not really needed or was too personal," up from 42% five years ago.

"Privacy issues are like land mines. They are invisible until you stumble on them and then they explode," Humphrey Taylor, CEO, Louis Harris & Associates, told attendees.

The 1995 phone survey of 1,006 people was conducted in July by Harris in collaboration with Columbia University professor Alan Westin. The survey, sponsored by credit reporting company Equifax, Atlanta, is the sixth in a series of annual surveys on consumer attitudes about privacy.

The margin of error is 3 percentage points.

This year, about 82% said they were "very" (47%) or "somewhat" (35%) concerned about threats to personal privacy, the second consecutive year the proportion has topped 80%. And 80% said they feel "consumers have lost all control over how personal information about them is circulated and used by companies," up from 71% in 1990.

Consumers are more concerned about privacy invasion by government agencies, 51%, than by businesses, 43%.

Of nine consumer issues, "protecting the privacy of consumer information" ranks fifth in terms of the percentage of people who say the issue is "very important" to them (61%.)

Issues seen as more important: controlling the cost of medical insurance (84%); staying out of excessive debt (83%); and reducing insurance fraud (74%).

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