Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Americans increasingly concerned about privacy and outsourcing

The Ponemon Institute has undertaken a very interesting survey of Americans' attitudes toward outsourcing and privacy. What I find particularly interesting is that the survey revealed that Canada is the most trusted outsourcing destination. (India came in third, though the Indian media has been putting an interesting spin on it: US consumers give top trust ranking to India - The Times of India).

Here's the press release about the survey:

Survey Finds Americans Increasingly Concerned About Outsourcing Personal Data:

Up to 83% of Respondents Don't Want Sensitive Data Sent Off Shore

NEW YORK, June 6 /PRNewswire/ -- A new survey sponsored by global law firm White & Case LLP, and developed by independent privacy think tank Ponemon Institute, found that the majority of American consumers do not want US companies sharing personal information with outsourcing companies overseas.

Fifty-one percent of those US adults surveyed said that they did not want a US organization to send sensitive personal information such as social security or driver's license numbers to a local company in another country. Opposition was higher when it came to sharing even more sensitive information: 60 percent didn't want their credit or debit card account numbers shared with an offshore company; 64 percent opposed having their employee records shared; 73 percent opposed having their banking or home mortgage information shared; and a whopping 83 percent opposed having their health records shared with a local company in another country.

"That so many Americans are concerned about sensitive personal data going overseas isn't surprising given the growing threat of identity theft and general misperceptions about outsourcing itself," said White & Case partner Steve Betensky, who regularly advises companies on outsourcing issues. "But what makes this so challenging for US companies is that while consumers don't want their information sent oversees, 73 percent of US adults surveyed also said they are unwilling to pay higher prices for products or services if that would ensure that their personal information would not be outsourced offshore."

Betensky adds that the problem is further compounded by the fact that 82 percent of survey respondents felt that new US regulations were needed to ensure that offshore companies had adequate security and privacy safeguards in place -- despite the fact that many industries such as healthcare and financial services are already strongly regulated.

"When customers aren't willing to pay more for security safeguards, they automatically turn to government for relief. That leads to increased regulations, which generally leads to higher costs for companies in order to comply or risk fines. So the real message I take away from this survey is that companies better be prepared to pay more one way or the other. The best thing that companies can to do is negotiate their outsourcing contracts carefully so that the offshoring entity assumes some of the risk and costs associated with privacy safeguards and takes responsibility for ensuring that those privacy safeguards are effective," said Betensky.

Larry Ponemon, CEO and founder of Ponemon Institute, said that the survey also revealed that Americans do not view all countries equally when it comes to offshoring. When asked to select from 47 countries where outsourcing operations occur, US adults felt most comfortable with Canada, Ireland and India, giving them highest overall trust rankings with respect to local companies taking steps to protect or safeguard personal information. Philippines, Mexico, Haiti and Russia received the lowest trust rankings.

"Those statistics seem to confirm what we see in the global market place. India and Ireland have increasingly become some of the most attractive places for outsourcing ventures -- not only due to a well-educated workforce and lower salaries, but because those jurisdictions have made an active effort to establish strong regulations when it comes to outsourcing issues, including privacy," said Ponemon.

The study randomly surveyed 11,729 US adults via the Internet. In total, 1421 respondents completed the survey during an 8 day-research period. Of those, 127 were rejected because of incomplete or inconsistent responses -- results were thus drawn from a total of 1,294 people from every region of the United States.

A complete copy of the survey can be obtained at http://www.whitecase.com/outsourcingandprivacy

About White & Case

White & Case LLP is a leading global law firm with nearly 2000 lawyers practicing in 36 offices in 24 countries. White & Case's Privacy practice operates at the forefront of privacy issues and data protection laws. We advise clients on how to adopt sound privacy practices, avoid privacy risks, and protect their competitive advantage, including in relation to developing outsourcing contracts and policies. We also represent clients in privacy- related litigation. Each year we host an annual Global Privacy symposium, write articles and publish or sponsor surveys related to complex privacy issues. Visit http://www.whitecase.com.

About the Ponemon Institute, LLC

Ponemon Institute is a "think tank" dedicated to advancing responsible information management practices in business and government. To achieve this objective, Ponemon Institute conducts independent research on privacy and information security, educates leaders from the private and public sectors, and verifies the privacy and data protection practices of organizations. The Institute is headquartered in Michigan. For more information, visit http://www.ponemon.org or contact (800) 887.3118.

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