Building Trust with Consumers: Is Disclosure Enough?

September 16, 2009
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As the fourth quarter approaches, think about the number of transactions that will occur online—many through email—and the amount of data that will be pumped across the Internet. Each one of those transactions is an opportunity for your business to build a trusting relationship with the customer.

Collecting information carries with it a responsibility to the consumer to communicate and protect. I would like to sit down kitchen-table-style with each customer of ours and explain not only the benefits of our products but also the safeguards my company has in place for protecting their information along with what information we share, with whom we share it, and what choice they have in the matter. During this idyllic exchange, I do not refer to a particular Section or preamble of a legally-written document that the customer may not comprehend, if even read.

Would you explain your data practices to your customer with legal jargon when face-to-face? If no, then why are so many businesses doing just that online?

In an interview with the New York Times, David Vladeck, head of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission, states “The empirical evidence we’re

As the fourth quarter approaches, think about the number of transactions that will occur online—many through email—and the amount of data that will be pumped across the Internet. Each one of those transactions is an opportunity for your business to build a trusting relationship with the customer.

Collecting information carries with it a responsibility to the consumer to communicate and protect. I would like to sit down kitchen-table-style with each customer of ours and explain not only the benefits of our products but also the safeguards my company has in place for protecting their information along with what information we share, with whom we share it, and what choice they have in the matter. During this idyllic exchange, I do not refer to a particular Section or preamble of a legally-written document that the customer may not comprehend, if even read.

Would you explain your data practices to your customer with legal jargon when face-to-face? If no, then why are so many businesses doing just that online?

In an interview with the New York Times, David Vladeck, head of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission, states “The empirical evidence we’re seeing is that disclosures on their own don’t work, particularly disclosures that are long, written by lawyers, and written largely as a defense to liability cases.”

Fortunately for marketers, research teams, like the one Lorrie Faith Cranor leads at Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory (CUPS), are working to take the guesswork out of communication between businesses, via privacy statements on websites, and consumers. They have created a “nutrition label for privacy,” which is proposed to be the standardized format for privacy policies. View a current example here: http://cups.cs.cmu.edu/privacylabel-05-2009/current/1.php

Is the Privacy Label approach the answer? Perhaps. The privacy statement is one more relationship touch point that has the potential to build trust. This is an opportunity for marketers to improve communication and take control of their privacy statements. As Cranor quotes on her personal homepage, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. – Dr. Seuss, from The Lorax”

LashBack Guest Contributor Dianna Koltz, Director of Best Practices at Memolink, Inc, is a leading expert in online marketing compliance and best practices. With over eight years experience and with the Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP) distinction, Koltz consults on compliance, consumer privacy issues, data protection issues, and corporate due diligence, which includes vetting consumers and businesses.  She was named to the DMNews 30 under 30 for her proven ability to lead teams, initiate change and growth, drive measurable results for her company, and deliver fresh insight into the marketing challenges in the direct, database and interactive marketing industry.

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