Ponemon Institute Announces Results of 2012 Most Trusted Companies for Privacy Study

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For the seventh consecutive year, consumers rank the commercial and government organizations they trust most to protect their personal information, led this year by American Express.

American Express repeats as the most trusted company for privacy, according to the seventh annual Most Trusted Companies for Privacy Study. Ponemon Institute released the study in recognition of Data Privacy Day. This annual study tracks consumers’ rankings of organizations that collect and manage their personal information.

More than 100,000 adult-aged consumers were asked to name up to five companies they believe to be the most trusted for protecting the privacy of their personal information. Consumer responses were gathered over a 15-week period concluding in December 2012 and resulted in a final sample of 6,704 respondents who, on average, provided 5.4 discernible company ratings that represent 25 different industries.

The top 20 companies and how they ranked in 2012 and 2011 is presented in the table below. A description of the survey methodology is presented in the full report available at http://www.ponemon.org.

Top 20 Most Trusted Companies for Privacy    (2012 Rank, 2011 Rank)
American Express (1, 1)
Hewlett Packard (2, 2)
Amazon (3, 5)
IBM    (4, 3)
US Postal Service (4, 6)
Procter & Gamble (6, 6)
USAA (7, 11)
Nationwide (8, 8)
eBay (9, 4)
Intuit     (10, 10)
Verizon (11, 12)
Johnson & Johnson (12, 7)
FedEx (12, 15)
WebMD (13, 9)
Weight Watchers (14, 17)
U.S. Bank (15, 16)
Disney (16, 13)
Microsoft (17, NR)
United Healthcare (18, NR)
VISA (18, 16)
AT&T (19, 19)
Mozilla (20, NR)
*NR = Not rated in the stated year

Healthcare, consumer products, and banking are the industry segments considered by consumers the most trusted for privacy (among 25 industry categories). In contrast, Internet and social media, non-profits (charities) and toys are viewed as the least trusted for privacy.

When asked what is important to creating a trusted relationship with an organization, the majority of consumers (73 percent) surveyed said it is the security technologies and procedures they have in place to protect personal information followed by no data sharing without consent (59 percent), the ability to be forgotten (56 percent) and the option to revoke consent (55 percent).

AT&T, Hewlett Packard, Intuit, Mozilla and Verizon had the following response to their recognition as one of the most trusted companies:

“At AT&T, privacy is a top priority. Our customers deserve nothing less. We’re honored to see our efforts recognized by the distinguished Ponemon Institute and pledge to continue earning our customers’ confidence and trust each and every day,” said Robert W. Quinn Jr., senior vice president—Federal Regulatory & Chief Privacy Officer, AT&T Services, Inc.

“HP is committed to protecting personal information and we are proud to be recognized as a trusted company,” said Scott Taylor, Chief Privacy Officer at HP. “HP supports the highest international standards and continues to enact robust privacy policies and data protection practices to earn the trust and confidence of customers, partners and employees.”

"We are honored to be named one of the top companies for privacy," said Barb Lawler, Intuit's chief privacy officer. "For nearly 30 years Intuit has worked with customers' financial information, and we believe we must continue to earn our customers' trust each and every day.”

“Mozilla is a unique technology organization that puts people at the center of the Web," said Alex Fowler, Chief Privacy Officer, Mozilla. "Being ranked the most-trusted Internet company for privacy is validation that users want mainstream applications like Firefox to provide a great user experience and better transparency, choice and control online. Much more is ahead for Mozilla as we work with stakeholders across the Web and mobile to help people understand how their information is being used and shape their own online experience."

Karen Zacharia, chief privacy officer for Verizon, said, “Keeping customers informed of our privacy practices and safeguarding our customers’ information continue to be important priorities when Verizon develops new products and services. We are honored to again be named as a top-20 most trusted company for privacy and to be the highest rated in our industry.”

Consumers worry about identity theft and increased government surveillance

In addition to asking consumers to rank the organizations they find most trustworthy, the study also asks what they believe are the most significant privacy-related threats, whether they think they have control over their personal information and the importance of the privacy of their personal information.

“Consumers in this year’s study said the most significant threats to their personal privacy are identity theft closely followed by an increase in government surveillance, said Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder, Ponemon Institute. Unfortunately, fewer consumers also believe they have less control over their personal information.”

The following are some noteworthy findings from this year’s research:

  •     New entrants to this year’s top 20 most trusted list includes: Microsoft (ranked 17), United Healthcare (ranked 18) and Mozilla (ranked 20).
  •     Seventy-eight percent of respondents continue to perceive privacy and the protection of their personal information as very important or important to the overall trust equation. Further, the importance of privacy has steadily trended upward over seven years.
  •     While most individuals say protecting the privacy of their personal information is very important, 63 percent of respondents admit to sharing their sensitive personal information with an organization they did not know or trust. Of those who admit to sharing, 60 percent say they did this solely for convenience such as when making a purchase.
  •     Fifty-nine percent of respondents believe their privacy rights are diminished or undermined by disruptive technologies such as social media, smart mobile devices and geo-tracking tools. Fifty-five percent say their privacy has been diminished by virtue of perceived government intrusions.
  •     Only 35 percent of respondents believe they have control over their personal information and this result has steadily trended downward over seven years.
  •     Less than one-third (32 percent) of respondents admit they do not rely on privacy policies or trust seal programs when judging the privacy practices of organizations they deal with. When asked why, 60 percent believe these policies are too long or contain too much legalese.
  •     Forty-nine percent of respondents recall receiving one or more data breach notifications in the past 24 months. Seventy percent of these individuals said this notification caused a loss of trust in the privacy practices of the organization reporting the incident.
  •     Seventy-three percent of respondents believe the substantial security protections over their personal information is the most important privacy feature to advancing a trusted relationship with business or government organizations. Other important privacy features include: no data sharing without consent (59 percent), the ability to be forgotten (56 percent) and the option to revoke consent (55 percent).

For a copy of the 2012 Most Trusted Companies Study, please contact research (at) ponemon (dot) org.

About the Ponemon Institute
The Ponemon Institute is dedicated to advancing responsible information and privacy management practices in business and government. To achieve this objective, the Institute conducts independent research, educates leaders from the private and public sectors and verifies the privacy and data protection policies of organizations in a variety of industries. For more information, visit http://www.ponemon.org.

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