To Seal Or Not To Seal?

Put on your consumer hat for a moment. Do you notice online seals? If so, do they alter your surfing behavior in any way? How 'bout your purchasing behavior? Are you concerned about your privacy online?

It's hard for me to answer these questions. By no means am I the average online consumer. I mean, let's face it, I spend my life and my career on the Net. As a consumer, I bank online, trade stocks, shop for anything and everything to wedding and baby presents to kitchen cabinet hardware to flooring. I even picked out bathroom vanities (that weighed about 800 pounds) online. To mem the Net is easier and often a better vehicle to shop.

I was reading a recent Peppers & Rogers article about seals and TRUSTe, the company that began with a Web privacy seal over 9 years ago. The article also begs the question, do users really notice seals? If there is no seal, would a consumer notice one was missing?

TRUSTe had the firm TNS conduct a study to find out. Top line findings were:

  • 47 percent of respondents had heard of seals.
  • 34 percent had not heard of them.
  • 86 percent said privacy seals were either "very" or "somewhat" useful.
  • 15 percent believe seals have affected their online behavior "often."
  • 38 percent said seals have affected their online behavior "sometimes."



    Hey I'm not knocking TRUSTe. As of early March, about 1,800 companies were part of TRUSTe's core privacy-seal program, which I think is a step in the right direction. In a world of big corporate scandals, terrorism, identity theft and fraud, child predators, and online scammers, we need to protect our brands. We also need to make sure the company we keep is reputable, and have no qualms in touting that fact.

    So I beg the question, dear readers, which brands do you think are the most trusted online? Well our friends at TRUSTe and The Ponemon Institute recently announced the winners of the Most Trusted Companies for Privacy Award 2006."They even held an award ceremony in Washington D.C. back in March. So you want to take a guess at the top three? Drum roll please....P&G, HP and E-LOAN respectively. This is the second annual such award. Previous winners were HP and eBay. The awards review was conducted in two stages. The 20 companies rated most trusted in an unaided consumer survey moved on to the expert review where policies, practices, and execution were tested for consistent care with regard to privacy issues. In September 2005, the finalists were announced as: American Express, Amazon, P&G, HP, eBay, AOL, USPS, Dell, IBM, Earthlink, Google, Charles Schwab, Apple, Johnson & Johnson, WebMD, E-LOAN, WAMU, Federal Express, Yahoo!, USAA, and Walt Disney Corporation.

    "The Most Trusted Company for Privacy Award celebrates the brands that respect people's privacy, encourages a safer digital marketplace and helps Internet users understand privacy issues," said Fran Maier, president and executive director of TRUSTe, in a recent press release. "These three companies are trusted by consumers and experts alike. They are different in size and scope, helping to prove that security concerns aren't limited to certain industries or giant conglomerates, but apply to everyone."

    So what do you think? Do your clients use seals like TRUSTe? Does it help everyone or just the little guys? In a world of adware, spyware, pharming, phising and fraud, how can we establish our brands as trustworthy?

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