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Source: Toronto Star

Posted on January 20, 2006

      Concerns about identity theft and telemarketing are on the rise as worries about spam fall, according to a new survey of consumer perceptions obtained by the Toronto Star, which also found that IBM and Bell Canada remain the most trusted companies in Canada when it comes to protecting customer privacy.

      The second-annual online survey, conducted during the last two months of 2005, is a section of a larger North American survey that asked 695 Canadians to name the companies they trust most with their personal information.

      Newcomers to this year's Top 10 trusted firms include phone company Telus Inc., insurance and investment giant Manulife Financial Corp., and retailers Sears Canada Inc. and Hudson's Bay, which bumped General Electric, TD Bank and Dell Inc. off the list.

      A category called "Canadian health services," which ranked fifth the previous year, was excluded from last year's survey.

      Larry Ponemon, chairman of the Ponemon Institute in Scottsdale, Ariz., and chief architect of the survey, which was sponsored by Carlson Marketing Group, said Canadians have a tendency to trust domestic companies first.

      "Canadian brands, such as Bell, HBC and Telus, seem to outperform the equivalent global brands, with the exception of IBM," said Ponemon. "For whatever reason IBM gets very, very high marks."

      He emphasized that consumers who take part in the survey don't select from a pre-established list. Rather, they are free to name any Canadian, U.S. or global firm that comes to mind.

      The report will be publicly released later this month. It found that identity theft was the top privacy concern for 54 per cent of respondents, up from 46 per cent a year earlier.

      Canadians' concerns over telemarketing abuse is also on the rise, with 35 per cent calling it their biggest worry compared to 31 per cent a year earlier, despite plans to introduce a national do-not-call list in Canada.

      On the other hand, spam is becoming a less serious issue for many, with 32 per cent calling it their top concern versus 37 per cent the previous year. The finding is consistent with recent research indicating that spam, while still a problem, is being reduced by advancement in anti-spam software and industry-wide efforts.

      Measured by industry, the airline, food services and cable sectors fall at the bottom of the heap in public trust. The largest drop was experienced by credit-card issuers, which fell to ninth place from fifth out of 20 industry categories.

      Ponemon said cable and telecom companies are both despised in the United States for their apparent lack of concern for consumer privacy, while there's a huge perception gap between Canadian telephone companies, which rank third by industry, and cable companies, which are at the bottom of the pack.

      He said many respondents to the survey did express concern over a recent Maclean's magazine report about the ease with which telephone records can be illegally accessed from Bell Canada, but this information leak did little to alter overall perceptions of Canada's largest phone company.

      Noticeably absent from the Top 10 list for the past two years is Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, which has been at the centre of a number of major privacy breaches over the past two years.

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