High-Tech Firms Ramp Up Privacy Policies

High-tech firms waver in their ability to deal with online customers, according to The Customer Respect Group‘s report on the high-tech and computer industry. Though some firms improved their behaviors, 37 percent of those surveyed slipped in score since the previous report, six months ago.

Privacy practices improved across the board, with a 50 percent increase in companies that achieved an “excellent” score. Alternately, the number of companies with a “poor” score went up by 25 percent. A privacy policy is posted on all company Web sites, according to the report, though policy transparency and clarity aren’t always applied.

Data sharing falls under the privacy policy umbrella. Though many businesses are moving toward opt-in policies, it’s not uncommon for businesses to share customer information without regard for their customers. Twenty percent of companies share within a business group, 15 percent share with business partners, and 3 percent share with outside parties without explicit permission from customers.

“Increasingly, the major companies are stopping sharing; for the first time, it’s becoming a business factor,” said Terry Golesworthy, president of The Customer Respect Group. “It’s a positive thing to say in market terms.”

Opt-in practices aid the cleanup of privacy practices and information sharing. Thirty-seven percent of companies allow users to opt in to ongoing email marketing. The report finds the rest use implied consent, which requires users to take action to be removed from mailing lists and shared customer information.

“Companies are making categorical statements up front, making clear statements about what’s going on there,” said Golesworthy. “There’s a general shift towards opt-in versus opt-out. A year ago, it was rare to find people doing opt-in; now it’s about 40 percent.”

Data were compiled by interviews of a representative sample of adult Internet users and by analysis and categorization of more than 2,000 corporate Web sites across a spectrum of industries. The Customer Respect Group identified the attributes that collectively measure the online customer experience.

High Technology Products and Services Customer Rating Index Ratings, Q1 2006
Rank Company URL CRI
1 Electronic Data Systems www.eds.com 8.7
2 eBay www.ebay.com 8.4
3 Xerox www.xerox.com 8.3
4 (tie) Intuit www.intuit.com 8.0
4 (tie) Linksys (a division of Cisco Systems) www.linksys.com 8.0
4 (tie) Microsoft Corporation www.microsoft.com 8.0
5 MSN www.msn.com 7.9
6 Gateway www.gateway.com 7.8
7 Dell www.dell.com 7.7
8 Arrow Electronics www.arrow.com 7.6
9 (tie) Electronic Arts www.ea.com 7.5
9 (tie) McAfee www.mcafee.com 7.5
9 (tie) Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson www.ericsson.com 7.5
10 (tie) Lexmark International www.lexmark.com 7.4
10 (tie) Symantec www.symantec.com 7.4
10 (tie) Yahoo www.yahoo.com 7.4
11 (tie) 3Com Corporation www.3com.com 7.3
11 (tie) Motorola www.motorola.com 7.3
11 (tie) SunGard Data Systems www.sungard.com 7.3
12 Hewlett-Packard www.hp.com 7.1
Industry average 6.4
Source: The Customer Respect Group, January 2006

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