Emily Tan
Nov 15, 2012

Report finds most businesses are not taking privacy seriously and risk alienating customers

GLOBAL – Despite growing privacy concerns among consumers, nearly two-thirds of surveyed employees believe their companies do not consider privacy and the protection of personal information a corporate priority, according to a report by Edelman.

Most business are not aware enough or prepared to face privacy issues
Most business are not aware enough or prepared to face privacy issues

The same number of those surveyed (57 per cent), also believe their companies lack transparency on what it does with employee and customer information, and 61 per cent are slow to respond to consumer and regulatory complaints about privacy.

The comprehensive study of 6,400 corporate privacy and security executives was conducted by the Ponemon Institute, a leading independent research organisation. The analysis spans 29 countries around the world, and is believed to be one of the largest studies of its kind ever fielded.

Not only are companies not prioritising privacy protection, most aren’t even capable of it. More than six in 10 of those surveyed, said their organisations lacked the expertise, training or technology to protect personal information.

This lackadaisical approach to consumer privacy may cause businesses to alienate their customers, for whom privacy is a growing concern. An earlier study by Edelman found that, 85 per cent of consumers around the world feel companies need to take data security and privacy more seriously, while 70 per cent said they were more concerned about these issues than they were five years ago.

For example, the latest study found that three-quarters of consumers will stop using an online shop if their information was accessed without permission.

The findings indicate a “worrying void between businesses' privacy practices and consumer expectations about how their personal data is handled", said Pete Pedersen, global chair of technology practice at Edelman. “From a communications and stakeholder engagement point of view, what is most concerning is the lack of clarity and transparency about these practices.”

The study also found that businesses lacked awareness of the potential risks related to data security and privacy incidents. More than half of respondents think a data breach would not adversely affect their reputation or financial position, despite nearly three quarters of consumers (71 per cent) saying they would leave a company after a data breach.

Additionally, 57 per cent of organisations believe that employees do not understand the importance of privacy and two thirds do not make an effort to educate employees about privacy and security issues

 “With the growing level of consumer, media and regulatory attention currently focused on privacy, businesses simply cannot afford to risk the reputational and financial damage that may result from a lack of attention to this business-critical need,” said Ben Boyd, global chair of corporate practice at Edelman.

However, he added that for businesses that are aware, there is an opportunity to grow confidence and trust in their brands through thoughtful privacy and data management. 

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