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FTC hasn't paid any money to data breach victims

ATLANTA - Nearly eight months after federal regulators trumpeted a settlement they secured with ChoicePoint Inc. over a data breach, the government has not paid any money to victims from a $5 million fund that was to be set up as part of the agreement.

The Federal Trade Commission also has not yet implemented procedures for how the 800 fraud victims it has identified so far can apply for and receive compensation from the fund, nor has it hired anyone to administer the fund on behalf of the agency, said FTC spokeswoman Claudia Bourne Farrell.

''That's under review,'' Farrell said Tuesday. Responding to an open records request by The Associated Press, Farrell said the commission is trying to develop a plan to distribute the money ''expeditiously and efficiently.''

Jessica Rich, assistant director of the FTC's division of privacy and identity theft, said in a statement released to AP on Wednesday that ''law enforcement is still identifying victims, and we want to make sure we have the right people.''

''We are hoping to complete the process soon,'' Rich wrote.

The disclosure about the money not yet being distributed comes as the President's Identity Theft Task Force adopted interim recommendations on addressing the problem of identity theft. The interim recommendations, announced Tuesday and highlighted in an FTC news release, included extending restitution for victims of identity theft and helping victims get easier access to police reports about the misuse of their personal information.

Rep. Ed Edward Markey, D-Mass., a member of the House Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee who has authored legislation to protect consumers' personal information, said the FTC isn't moving fast enough.

Markey said the ''victims should immediately receive the compensation they urgently need to protect themselves from exploitation by identity thieves.'' He added, ''Further delay is unacceptable.''

ChoicePoint spokesman Matt Furman said Wednesday, ''Our goal has always been to respond to consumers, in whatever state they may live.'' He added, ''We have full faith that the FTC is working hard to come up with a process to ensure that the money we contributed to help consumers is wisely spent for the benefit of anyone actually

affected.''

Alpharetta-based ChoicePoint, which collects, sells access to and analyzes information on consumers, agreed Jan. 26 to pay the FTC $15 million to settle charges that the company's security and record-handling procedures violated consumers' privacy rights when thieves infiltrated the company's massive database.

The money included a $10 million fine - the agency's largest ever - and $5 million for the victims' fund.