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Many workers have confessed they would be prepared to swipe data from their ex-employers when they changed jobs.

An online poll of 1,594 full and part-time workers and contractors in the US and UK found that around a quarter (29 per cent in the US and 23 per cent in the UK) would steal customer lists and other sensitive data when they moved employment.

A slightly smaller percentage - 15 per cent in the US and 17 per cent in the UK would walk away with product designs and plans.

By comparison only 13 per cent in the US and 22 per cent in the UK would take small office supplies. However, even the ethically flexible stopped short of being prepared to sell confidential data found in improperly secured files, with only one per cent in the UK and an even lower 0.5 per cent in the US prepared to launder such data on the black market.

A much larger percentage - 45 per cent of US and 57 per cent of UK respondents - admitted they would be unable to resist the temptation to look inside if they came across a confidential file containing, for example, merger plans or salary information.

The survey, commissioned by identity management firm SailPoint, and run by Harrison interactive, found mixed opinions about whether or not the recession has increased the temptation for workers to steal. Around 45 per cent of US respondents and a similar 48 per cent in the UK reckoned economic hard times have had no effect.

"It [the survey] highlights what I call a 'moral grey area' around ownership of electronic data," said Jackie Gilbert, vice president of marketing and co-founder of SailPoint. "We see this in the fact that there are more workers who are comfortable taking various forms of company data, such as customer contact information, than workers who would take a stapler."

More on the survey's methodology and findings can be found here. ®

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