Firefox Maker Mozilla Named ‘Most Trusted Internet Company For Privacy’ In 2012

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By Dave Smith | January 30, 2013 2:49 AM EST

Mozilla’s having a great week: Less than a week after unveiling its Firefox mobile operating system for smartphones, the Mountain View, Calif.-based software company proudly announced on Tuesday that it had been named the “Most Trusted Internet Company For Privacy” in 2012, according to a new study released by the Ponemon Institute early this morning.

“This is certainly quite a distinction and the product of a user-centric philosophy implemented by contributors to the Mozilla project over the past decade,” Harvey Anderson, Mozilla’s VP of business affairs, wrote in a company blog post. “Engineers, UX designers, security, engagement, IT and privacy folks have made thousands of small decisions over the years that have collectively created the user trust reflected by this survey. This recognition is not something we sought, as we don’t view privacy as an end unto itself, but it’s greatly appreciated given all the complexities and nuances associated with privacy and security today.”

The annual study from Traverse City, Mich.-based Ponemon Institute, known as the “Most Trusted Companies for Privacy Study,” objectively asks consumers to name and rate organizations (up to five) they believe are most committed to protecting the privacy of their personal information.

“This annual study tracks consumers’ rankings of organizations that collect and manage their personal information,” the report said. “We believe this research provides an unambiguous measure of how consumers perceive the privacy and personal data protection practices of specific organizations. While perception is not a perfect substitute for reality, in our experience this aggregated consumer view is an important indicator.”

Ponemon Institute, based in Traverse City, Mich., conducts independent research on privacy, data protection and information security policy; the company surveyed more than 100,000 adult-aged consumers over a 15-week period ending in December 2012, asking them “to name up to five companies they believe to be the most trusted for protecting the privacy of their personal information.” Of the 6,704 respondents, representing 25 different industries, Mozilla was ranked the top Internet and social media company out of a cluster size of 12 other companies.

While Mozilla was the top trusted Internet company for privacy, Mozilla only ranked No. 20 out of the Top 20 overall performers, with American Express, Hewlett Packard, Amazon, IBM and the US Postal Service topping the list (in order). Rounding out the Top 20 list were Procter & Gamble, USAA, Nationwide, eBay, Intuit, Verizon, Johnson & Johnson, FedEx, WebMD, Weight Watchers, U.S. Bank, Disney, Microsoft, United Healthcare, Visa, and AT&T.

This was Mozilla’s first year making Ponemon Institute’s list, and its overall No. 20 ranking is still quite respectable, especially considering how Ponemon Institute deemed “Internet and social media” to be the lowest-ranked sector, according to its trust rating of privacy measures. The top five industries for privacy trust in 2012 were healthcare, consumer products, banking, logistics, and communications.

“Fifty-nine percent of respondents believe their privacy rights are diminished or undermined by disruptive technologies such as social media, smart mobile devices and geo-tracking tools,” Ponemon Institute said in its report. “Only 35 percent of respondents believe they have control over their personal information and this result has steadily trended downward over seven years.”

Mozilla noted on its blog that Ponemon’s findings have further implications.

“It means we as an industry all have a lot more work to do,” Anderson said. “It’s unfortunate that users largely distrust the ecosystem of online service and application providers. What we really want is an environment where those of us developing Internet and social media services and applications deepen trust in a way that empowers and protects users and engenders confidence. We all have to continue our efforts — both big and small — to create a more trustworthy environment of online products that seamlessly integrate ease of use, transparency, and user choice.”

Mozilla has a separate blog on its site completely dedicated to its ongoing developments in privacy and data safety, aptly named the “Mozilla Privacy Blog.”

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