In IBM, HP and Apple we trust

Data privacy "Most Trusted" list filled with tech companies

Which are the "most trusted" companies in terms of data privacy, keeping appropriate control over personal information they collect in the course of business?

According to Ponemon Institute's "2008 Most Trusted Companies for Privacy" report, which is based on input from close to 6,500 American adults, the top-three ranking goes to American Express, eBay and IBM. Rounding out the list are Amazon, Johnson & Johnson, HP, the US Postal Service, Procter & Gamble, Apple, Nationwide and Charles Schwab.

In the report, which was sponsored by online trust outfit TRUSTe, Ponemon also lists Yahoo, Facebook, AOL and Verizon among the top 20.

"It is a perception-driven survey, but perception drives behavior," says Dr. Larry Ponemon about how those surveyed made their choices, naming hundreds of companies without input at all from the research firm, other than its request they name companies they believe follow good data-privacy practices.

Ponemon Institute considers factors such as notice of policy, choice and consent, access and redress regarding personal information and good security to be a foundation for decision-making, and prompted the survey respondents to consider their answers with these guidelines.

But in the end, "Do perception and reality align? We hope it does," says Ponemon.

The survey simply reveals the sentiments of everyday "normal people. The view was a gut feel," says Ponemon, adding he hopes the list isn't some testimony to effective marketing but reflects that "some organizations have learned to be good stewards" regarding customers' personal data.

In providing insight into why the study's thousands of respondents selected one company or another, Ponemon said good customer service appears to figure into the equation, citing the top winner, American Express, as an example.

If customers are left with a positive feeling in their interactions with a company about their personal data, they tend to believe the company is handling their personal information appropriately. Ponemon adds that keeping clear of the pitfalls of a data breach is also central to keeping that consumer perception positive.

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