**NCDM: Privacy Can Be a Competitive Advantage
However, Reid, whose division offers privacy consulting and privacy tools, said that as he goes around the world talking to businesses, most of them "really have not given a whole lot of thought to privacy issues. In many instances, they just think it is a risk that they'd rather defer action on."
Companies can have a competitive advantage if they build trust with their customers regarding privacy -- and that may mean letting them disclose information to a company so they can have a more personalized Web experience, but not selling their data to a third party, Reid said.
For example, he cited a survey that said that most Web surfers are willing to provide certain types of personal information in exchange for more personalized interaction online -- but almost half of the 1,000 people surveyed felt sharing that information with an online third party would be an invasion of privacy.
Of the respondents, 88 percent said they would reveal their name, 86 percent would disclose both age and educational details, 59 percent household income, 41 percent details about salary and 13 percent credit card information.
However, when asked what information could be shared with another Web site the numbers dropped dramatically. For example, 1 percent reported that it would be OK to release credit card information.
Reid said companies that follow these rules will have a competitive advantage:
• Value customers rather than see them as customer lists.
• Have a clear and precise privacy statement on the site.
• Make sure information is collected using the fundamentals of permission marketing.
• Remind customers that you will protect their privacy.
• Collect information relative to the personalization process.
• Start listening to your customers.
• Be aware that the sites you partner with can collect information about your customer directly off your Web site and sell that information.
Reid said that "marketers should recognize the competitive advantage aspect of privacy as opposed to leaving it until the last minute when there will undoubtedly be legislation about the issue passed in the [United States] next year."