"GUARANTEE my privacy and I'll be inclined to buy from you" is the message that consumers are sending to American business - both in an offline and online environment.
In a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Privacy & American Business, and sponsored by the AICPA and Ernst & Young, consumers were loud and clear on two issues:
1. We don't trust businesses in general
2. Protection of our privacy is paramount
What are consumers most concerned about?
The concerns foremost in the minds of consumers relating to privacy are:
- that businesses will provide their information to other companies without the consumer's permission;
- that their transactions may not be secure;
- and that hackers could steal their personal data.
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.
What should businesses do to address their customers' concerns?
What should be verified?
Consumers were clear as to what should be verified so they could increase their confidence in doing business with a firm.
- that security procedures are adequate (90%);
- that the company does not release customer personal data without permission or unless required by law (89%);
- that access within the company is limited (84%);
- that the company is only collecting the customer information that its privacy policies indicate (84%);
- and that information use or sharing follows stated privacy policies (81%).
How to proceed?
A number of organizations are offering third party verification and assurance of privacy policies. The AICPA's Webtrust program is one. The Better Business Bureau is another. Many CPA firms offer both informal and formal reviews. And Internet leaders such as Verisign offer assurance services as well.
Look around and find a program that fits your needs.