Study: most companies don't take privacy seriously

BRUSSELS: Many organizations lack the business behavior and compliance practices to protect consumer data, according to Edelman's "Privacy Index" study, released Tuesday.

BRUSSELS: Many organizations lack the business behavior and compliance practices to protect consumer data, according to Edelman's “Privacy Index” study, released Tuesday.

The findings are based off responses from 6,400 corporate privacy and security executives in 29 countries. The Ponemon Institute conducted the research.

More than half (57%) of respondents think their organization does not make privacy and the protection of personal information a corporate priority. In addition, 61% of companies do not strictly enforce all levels of compliance with laws and regulations.

Companies may be falling short because of lack of expertise, training and technology, or resources, according to the respondents. The study also found that 57% of respondents believe their company is not transparent about what it does with employee and customer information, and 61% say their workplaces are slow to respond to consumer and regulator complaints about privacy.

Earlier this year, Edelman's Trust Barometer report found that 85% of consumers around the world feel companies need to take data security and privacy more seriously.

To help companies be more proactive, Edelman released an online benchmarking tool that enables businesses to quickly rate their own privacy risk based on the data. It provides a privacy risk index score, with a high score indicating a company is more likely to suffer reputational damage or economic losses as a result of privacy-related problems and incidents.

The firm began to do research in the area 18 months ago. “What we are really interested in finding out is the delta between what consumers expect and what companies are actually doing in terms of handling and viewing data,” said Pete Pedersen, EVP and chair of the global technology practice at Edelman.

With the proliferation of mobile devices and data collection, the possibility of a data breach, and ensuing reputational damage, is greater than ever, said Pederson.

It is an issue that has crossed various PR practices from public affairs to consumer, said Ben Boyd, Edelman's global corporate practice chairman.

“There is a necessary call to action,” Boyd said. “Being unprepared is not an excuse.”

To get the word out about the research, Edelman is planning to host events in coming months and share the study's findings with some of its largest clients.

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