Tuesday, December 06, 2005

"Trust is fundamental. Distrust has a devastating impact on profitability."

At a recent conference in Toronto, reported on by IT Business, Ontario's outspoken Information and Privacy Commissioner, Anne Cavoukian, had some strong words about how companies respond to privacy incidents.

IT Business : EDGE:

With identity theft being the fastest growing form of fraud -- Equifax in Canada reported between 1,400 and 1,800 identity theft-related complaints per month -- companies can no longer say it’s just an external threat that can be remedied by a firewall, for example. The Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, Ann Cavoukian, who also spoke at Tuesday’s event, said businesses need to think of privacy as a business issue rather than an IT-related one. Cavoukian cited several U.S.-based studies that show customers said identity theft-related incidents affected their purchasing decisions.

“If I were a business I would make privacy work for me,” said Cavoukian. “Trust is fundamental. Distrust has a devastating impact on profitability.”

To illustrate her point, Cavoukian mentioned the CIBC faxing fiasco as an example of how not to handle a privacy breach. The U.S. case involved a West Virginia scrapyard owner who had been receiving faxes containing confidential data from CIBC for three years. In April, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada ruled the bank was in violation of PIPEDA principles. CIBC responded to the Commissioner’s findings by creating a national database to track privacy issues and establishing a national privacy office, among other initiatives.

“I’m outraged by CIBC’s response to the faxing fiasco,” said Cavoukian, adding the incident will make it into business studies as an example of how not to handle such a situation. “Everything is in your management of a crisis and your immediate reaction.”

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