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COMPANIES TURNING TO CONSULTANTS TO EASE PRIVACY CONCERNS

Source: Privacy Exchange

Posted on June 6, 2001

      Growing corporate privacy concerns have spawned a cottage industry of consultants, accountants, public relations experts and law firms. Among the Big Five accounting firms, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte & Touche have launched specialized units that sell comprehensive privacy audits to Fortune 500 companies for $50,000 to $150,000 each. At Ernst & Young, privacy-related business tripled last year.

      Privacy consulting boutiques, such as Privacy Council and Guardent Inc., have also emerged. Growing consumer anxiety about data collection, new state and federal privacy laws, and tougher enforcement of existing laws are driving the demand for privacy advice. U.S. firms that do business abroad also face a plethora of foreign laws, creating even more confusion.

      "This business is about solving some very messy problems with no quick fixes," said Larry Ponemon, Guardent's president. "There's so much confusion in the marketplace about privacy, it's created a bubble for consultants like us who can provide solutions."

      Another incentive for companies to seek advice is the cost of a privacy lapse that becomes public. John McCarthy, group director at Forrester Research, estimates that a small company might pay $44,000, including public relations costs, management time, customer service and outside consultants, to deal with a controversy about its use of personal information. At a large company, the cost could exceed $1 million.


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