New Ponemon Study Lists Top Privacy Features Consumers View As Important, Ranks Most Trusted Companies for Privacy

The Ponemon Institute released the 2012 results of its annual “Most Trusted Companies for Privacy Study,” which was quite the present on Data Privacy Day. The study has been conducted annually since 2006. While the rankings themselves certainly are interesting, other tidbits in the study about consumers’ attitudes toward privacy are more interesting. Some particularly noteworthy points from the study may give businesses ideas regarding which aspects of their privacy practices to highlight or improve. The study lists the eleven privacy features that consumers “view as important or very important to advancing a trusted relationship” with a company. The top five privacy features, each of which were considered as “very important” or “important” to over half of those surveyed, are:

  • Substantial security protections (73%)
  • No data sharing without consent (59%)
  • Ability to be forgotten (56%)
  • Option to revoke consent (55%)
  • Limits on data retention (52%)

It is interesting that the “ability to be forgotten” ranked so highly in a survey of American consumers, when this concept is generally associated with the EU. Nevertheless, the importance of these privacy features should not come as a surprise, as the FTC, the White House, and the California Attorney General have all released reports embracing these concepts over the past year.

The report also shows that consumers’ reported sense of control over their information has been in freefall. According to the report, this sense of control fell from a high of 56% of consumers reporting having this sense in 2007 to a low of 35% in 2012. At this same time, consumers have increasingly expressed the sentiment that the privacy of personal information is important, rising from a low of 69% of consumers making this statement in 2007 to a high of 78% in 2012.

At a time of a decreasing sense of control, coupled with an increasing sense that data privacy is important, companies might choose to use their privacy features and practices as a way to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Whether a company is seeking to demonstrate its privacy prowess or seeking to improve its current practices, the Ponemon report suggests that the top five factors listed may be a good starting point. For companies developing a new product or service, following the FTC’s recommendation to engage in the Privacy by Design approach to “bake-in” privacy protections can help to implement these top five factors.