A consumer study conducted by the Ponemon Institute and the non-profit privacy protection organisation, TRUSTe, has found the online marketplace, eBay, to be the most trusted company for privacy in America.
Other companies listed in the top ten (in descending order) include:
· American Express;
· Procter & Gamble (all brands);
· Hewlett Packard;
· US Postal Service;
The study, which involved more than 6,300 consumers, showed that internet companies, banks, and healthcare organisations have earned the greatest trust among consumers, while companies in the hospitality and retail food store industries are not generally considered as trustworthy.
What generates trust?
The top three criteria that consumers apply to gauge a company's trustworthiness, in order of importance, are: the company's overall reputation for product and service quality; the company's limits on collection of its customers' personal information; and the use of advertisements and solicitations that respect consumer privacy.
"Privacy is a key component of trust, which is crucial to the success of the eBay marketplace," said Scott Shipman, privacy counsel for eBay Inc. "We work closely with the eBay community to maintain the transparency of the marketplace while protecting the privacy of our users."
What worries consumers
The study also revealed that the proportion of consumers impacted by unwanted e-mail activity has nearly doubled to 58% in the past year. Consumers were also asked what worries them most if their personal information was leaked to individuals or organisations that were not authorised to receive the information. Three-quarters (76%) said that identity theft was their biggest concern, followed by spam concerns (58%) and fears related to loss of civil liberties (48%).
"Because consumers are becoming more concerned about identity theft and the safeguarding of their personal assets, a low privacy trust score could provide companies with an early warning signal that their reputation and brand loyalty might be in jeopardy," noted Dr Larry Ponemon, founder and chairman of the Ponemon Institute.
Trust aids brand loyalty
"This survey shows that companies that make privacy a core value are rewarded by consumers with brand loyalty," concluded Fran Maier, president and executive director for TRUSTe. "Effective companies don't consider privacy a compliance activity but rather a brand differentiation."
The survey portion of the study comprised a web-based and a postal questionnaire that asked consumers to name up to five companies in 24 different industry sectors that they believed to be the most trusted for honouring their privacy commitments, such as the protection and safeguarding of sensitive personal information. Specific company names were not suggested to allow each consumer participant to make their judgements without constraints.