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TSA, LAX: Dell's Lost Laptop Figures Do Not Compute


Last week L.A. Daily quoted findings from "Airport Insecurity:

The Case of Missing & Lost Laptops," an independent survey conducted in 2008 by the Ponemon Institute for Dell Inc., one of the nation's leading computer manufacturers. Based on a methodology that surveyed 106 U.S. airports and interviews with 864 business travelers, the study found that 12,255 laptops were lost each week at American airports. This figure included laptops that were quickly reunited with their owners because, Ponemon said, it was possible for those computers' data to have been compromised during the time the laptops were missing.

As shocking as this figure was, even more alarming was the study's estimate that about 1,200 laptops were lost, missing or stolen at LAX alone -- compared with 350 at San Francisco International and 900 at New York's JFK. While agencies contacted by L.A. Daily didn't immediately respond to our requests for comment, confirmation or denial, they did over the next few days and disputed the study's findings.

Nico Melendez, a Los Angeles spokesman for the federal Transportation Security Administration, a part of the Department of Homeland Security, wrote:

"Ponemon Institute released a non-scientific study, commissioned by Dell, stating that up to 12,000 laptops are lost weekly and 600,000 lost annually in U.S. airports.  The

number of laptops was derived from everywhere in the airport

environment and do not include passengers that were reunited with their

property. The study was done by extrapolating data from informal interviews at 106

airports.

The non-scientific study's data does not accurately reflect laptops

lost at TSA checkpoints and includes laptops lost anywhere in the

airport environment including airline ticket counters, terminals and

gates.

On average, TSA receives approximately 75 lost or missing laptop claims

each month, nationwide."

Albert Rodriguez, from LAX's public relations office added in two separate communications:



"The statistics from Dell stated that [extrapolated] 1200 laptops are lost or stolen on a weekly basis at LAX.

Airport PD reports an average of 258 lost or stolen laptops PER YEAR. A good portion of these are returned to the owner."

"The study's methodology . . . doesn't

seem to be based on any actual numbers that do exist -- at least when

it comes to LAX."doesn't come anywhere near the 1,200 per week reportedly lost at LAX."

A spokesman for the Ponemon Institute said it stands by its figures and, in an email to L.A. Daily, said:

"[W]e defined 'lost' in the study as any laptop computer that is separated from its owner long enough to have put the data contained on the computer at risk. That might mean that someone walked away from the security check and realized they grabbed their carry on, but left the computer behind. It doesn't mean that, each week 12,000 more computers are added to a pile in a warehouse somewhere."