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Source: InternetNews.com

Posted on January 24, 2001

      Essential for a successful business is trust and online trust arises from privacy and security. In the wake of the dot.correction and the struggling B2C market, the Knowledge Economy requires current consumer mistrust to be addressed. To this end the e-privacy survey released today in South Africa by PricewaterhouseCoopers reveals both South African and European concerns about online privacy.

South Africans and E-Privacy

The report indicates that 45% of South Africans are concerned about privacy when using the Internet -second only to the UK in countries interviewed- with 30% of interviewees fearing intrusion into their private lives. While only 21% said they were concerned about the security of transactions, this may be because a mere 6% of users are willing to divulge their credit card numbers over the Internet.

      Apart from financial details, only 19% of surfers here are not reluctant to divulge personal details such as political affiliation, names and other identifying characteristics. However, 40% of respondents said they would reveal behavioral data like occupation or interests.

      But they probably wouldn't reveal them to the government: only 18% of interviewees trust the government; in the event of a major invasion of privacy, 44% said they'd turn to their ISPs, only 15% evincing enough trust to go to the police.

Building Trust

The age of mass customization is establishing itself; 1-to-1 marketing tools can differentiate businesses from competitors, help acquire a greater share of customer spend, reduce expenses and make business planning more effective. But 1-to-1 marketing runs on customer information and the more customers trust, the more they divulge.

      Interestingly, the South African consumer appears easier to reassure than our European counterpart: 44% trust technology can provide online security and privacy, vs. the European average of 28%. We also trust proven brands, 53% of respondents agreeing that it is much safer to give information to known companies rather than unknown companies.

      Overall, 3 out of 4 South African interviewees stated that they would be reassured by any 1 of the following: Reputable brands, Government regulation, Written guarantees, Secure technology, Information on the actual data holders, or Seals.

      The last is worth more detail. A seal is an endorsement of a site by a 3rd party, effectively stating that the business behind the site complies with certain disclosure requirements, graphically communicating trustworthiness without consumers having to read privacy policies. TRUSTe, The Council of Better Business Bureaus and PricewaterhouseCoopers are examples of companies offering seals; the latter 2 are also working together to developing a web-based customer problem resolution solution.

Guarding Privacy

Businesses should bear in mind that anonymous users can still be data-sources, sources that are more willing to divulge if they are assured anonymity. Privacy is a personal matter and consumers differ in the amount of information they are willing to divulge -- although discovering who will divulge what is a delicate exercise. Businesses who guard customer privacy are guarding their market-share. A privacy policy should be a business tool, not merely what's required by law.

      Privacy is also a personal responsibility, one we preserve in the same way we preserve free speech: by exercising it. Organizations like the Privacy Foundation and EPIC provide privacy resources and reading material. Consumers should educate themselves on their rights and then tell companies what they feel.

      Finally, privacy is social responsible. Government must ensure adequate regulation to protect citizens and businesses. By ensuring that South Africa's privacy policy falls in line with international standards, we ensure that our companies can easily do business with foreign counterparts - or even subsidiaries.

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