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B-to-C Retailers Get A Lesson In Online Data Privacy
[August 22, 2005]

B-to-C Retailers Get A Lesson In Online Data Privacy

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, Editorial Director, Customer Interaction Solutions magazine

The results of an interesting report surfaced today: an organization called The Customer Respect Group, which calls itself "an international research and consulting firm that focuses on how corporations treat their customers online," released some teaser findings from its 2005 Privacy Report.

The Privacy Report examined the levels of online privacy offered by major North American companies during the first half of 2005. Results were found by examining 464 corporate Web sites to determine trends and best (or worst) practices. It examined issues such as data/personal privacy, notification of privacy policies and opt-in versus opt-out practices.

The president of the Customer Respect Group, Terry Golesworthy, stated that, "Privacy concerns are one of the major obstacles for the next level of adoption of the Web by the online customer. We believe this report will help companies make changes before privacy concerns affect their corporate reputations and brands."

He has a point. Nowadays, many online b-to-c companies seem to think that no one reads the small print on privacy policies. Unfortunately, they may have a point, too. We're all happy to buy online, and few people check the fine print, but we're all happy to be outraged when we find that a company has done something with our information that we don't like. Many consumers seem to assume that because a company is reputable, its privacy practices will be sterling. They're probably wrong.

As data privacy becomes a more prominent issue (weekly, so it seems), many consumers will begin adding privacy policies to their list of determining factors about which Web sites to shop or research from. As more people become identity theft victims (recall that for every I.D. theft victim there are dozens of people -- friends, coworkers and relatives --who hear about the victim's trials and tribulations and begin to become better activitists regarding their own dealings with online customer service.

It's important for consumers to become more educated, and it's extra important that businesses become aware of what is and is not acceptable to their customers. Privacy policies may become the next level of differentiation between online retailers: rather than "Free Shipping" or "Summer Sale" on Web sites, we may begin seeing companies that offer b-to-c customer service calling themselves, "The Leaders In Protecting Your Data."

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Tracey Schelmetic is editorial director for CUSTOMER INTER@CTION Solutions. For more articles by Tracey Schelmetic, please visit:


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