March 07, 2012, 1:07 PM — Giant, powerful PR companies are not first on the source list of reporters looking for objective opinions or research about the privacy and security of consumers.
As with ad agencies, the more a PR company knows about the online activities of that target audience the easier it is to figure out what message and what medium would be most effective in reaching that audience.
So, when a customer survey or other piece of research comes in over the transom from a big PR company – like Edelman Worldwide, for example – I take it with a grain of salt.
I try not to assume that behind any public-spirited-seeming survey is an effort to promote something that's exactly the opposite of the goal it claims to support.
Hence my hesitation over the consumer-protecting tone and survey titled Privacy & Security: The New Drivers of Brand, Reputation and Action, conducted and distributed by Edelman Worldwide, the giant PR company that has been the right hand of Microsoft since time immemorial. (Executive summary PDF; Full study PDF.)
Misgivings over top-line result on privacy, vendor consortium ready to "protect" it
The survey itself provides much the same ragged picture about consumer privacy as those from analyst, vendor and consumer-protection groups in the past: 68 percent of consumers feel they've lost control of their private information; 57 percent think their security has not improved over the past five years and 85 percent want companies to which they trust their data to do more to protect it.
It's that last bit that turns out to be the whole point of the survey, at least for Edelman, Microsoft and the rest of the tech industry.
Unlike the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which support regulations that would require companies to offer better protection for customer data and exploit it less, Edelman and Microsoft are pushing the idea that the same companies responsible for the shoddy state of online privacy should be trusted to create and stick to voluntary measures to protect customer data.