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Why Consumers Trust Companies

When it comes to protecting sensitive personal information, which companies do consumers trust the most? And, what are the common practices of these trustworthy organizations?

A recent Ponemon Institute consumer perception study conducted jointly with Vontu, Inc., a San Francisco-based technology company, ranked some of the companies with the highest levels of consumer trust. The November 2003 study included almost 1,000 adults across the United States. Top organizations include American Express, E-Bay, Procter & Gamble, Hewlett-Packard, Best Buy, VISA, AOL, IBM, General Electric and Federal Express.

Each of these companies takes seriously the need to engender customer trust. The following are 10 characteristics of the most trusted companies:

  1. A strong commitment to honoring their privacy obligation to customers, employees and other stakeholders.

  2. A belief that the value proposition of good privacy is more than compliance with laws and regulations.

  3. Communication of privacy obligations to consumers in a clear and concise way.

  4. Extra steps to control, manage and limit third-party data sharing with vendors, agents and contractors through legal agreements and ongoing due diligence.

  5. A formal redress program and a clearly articulated channel for raising questions and concerns.

  6. Web sites have a limited number of "required" fields from customers when completing information requests, fulfilling orders or registering online.

  7. Early adopters of enabling technologies for privacy and information security.

  8. Seal programs such as TRUSTe or BBB.Online to verify and demonstrate online compliance.

  9. Consistent privacy policies in both the online and offline universe. These companies have high privacy standards that are consistent around the world.

  10. Proactivity in improving their information management practices. They tend to keep a low profile about improvements to their information management practices.