Interesting Research from the Ponemon Institute

Governor James sent this link to consumer advocate Jordana Beebe's advice for companies that collect information from customers.

Which reminds me about an interesting article by Larry Ponemon for Computerworld on the “Top 5 privacy issues for 2005“.

The Ponemon Institute has surveyed “thousands of individuals on a variety of issues affecting their privacy, from a universal credentialing system to Internet ads that use personal information to target prospective customers.” I think this type of work is very important – it helps us ground our thinking in real qualitative and quantitative analysis. I'm going to learn more about Larry's research.

Larry reports:

  • most people are willing to use biometrics because of convenience
  • three quarters of those interviewed think a single verification system (from a bank or the post office) would simplify login
  • people are worried about unauthorized access to their data
  • people who fly are willing to trade privacy for safety

I take these readings as gauging present thinking among the American population, and therefore consider it to be important. But I also know that most people know a lot more about some of these issues than others.

People who fly understand the tradeoff with privacy. But most people haven't really thought about what the implications of a single verification system would be. So to really predict what they will think about such a system in practise, it is necessary to establish their opinions on a whole series of related issues. I don't know if Larry has done this, but I would like to find out.

Larry achieves this additional depth in the final page of his article, where he shows convincingly that consumer trust has a dollar value. He analyzes consumer willingness to share data as a function of their rating of the trustworthiness of the entity they are dealing with – and looks at these dynamics over time. He then posits a hypothetical marketing campaign and demonstrates that a top-rated organization in terms of its approach to privacy could achieve significantly higher results for a given investment. This attention to the evolution of his subjects’ thought over time, in conjunction with stratification of privacy reputation, is a great example of the kind of thinking that could help people who only casually think about identity issues understand the deeper dynamics.

Published by

Kim Cameron

Work on identity.