Consumers still do not trust companies to handle their personal information properly, says a new survey from Harris Interactive. However, independent verification of company privacy policies is the single business action that would satisfy almost two out of three consumers (62 percent). In fact, 84 percent think such verification should be "a requirement" for companies today.
The top three major concerns consumers express are that companies they patronize will provide their information to other companies without permission (75 percent); that their transactions may not be secure (70 percent); or that hackers could steal their personal data (69 percent.
While strong majorities of consumers report they are taking direct actions to assert their privacy such as refusing to give information to companies if it is felt to be too personal or not really needed, similar strong majorities say they want companies to communicate and follow good privacy policies, the survey says.
However, because trust in companies is low, the survey reveals that having a company’s privacy practices verified by a third party would lead more than 9 in 10 consumers (91 percent) to say they would do more business with such a firm. More than half of consumers (58 percent) say that if they were confident that a company whether offline or online really followed its privacy policies, they would be likely to recommend that company to friends and family. "These results offer powerful evidence that if American business wants to affect the attitudes and activities of today’s consumer, independent verification is the single most preferred action to accomplish such a rise in trust," said Dr. Alan Westin, founder of Privacy & American Business and Professor Emeritus at Columbia University, and the survey’s academic advisor. The survey also found that businesses which violate consumers’ privacy expectations have reason to worry. Eighty-three percent say they would stop doing business with a company entirely if they heard or read that the company misused customer information. The survey, "Privacy On and Off the Internet: What Consumers Want," was conducted in November and included 1,529 responses. The survey also reveals what consumers think are the most important elements to be verified in order to increase confidence that security procedures are adequate (90 percent); that the company does not release customer personal data without permission or unless required by law (89 percent); that access within the company is limited (84 percent); that the company is only collecting the customer information that its privacy policies indicate (84 percent); and that information use or sharing follows stated privacy policies (81 percent).
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