Consumers now trust Microsoft more than Apple with their privacy

Ponemon Institute ranks HP and IBM among the tech companies users trust most with their personal information

Big-name tech companies including Hewlett-Packard, Amazon, IBM, eBay, Intuit, Microsoft, and Mozilla are among the 20 most-trusted organizations among American consumers, according to Ponemon Institute's "2012 Most Trusted Companies for Privacy." Meanwhile, companies who've made the list in years past -- such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and Dell -- didn't make the cut this time around.

Beyond revealing which companies Americans trust most with their Social Security numbers and credit card info, the survey highlights a striking disconnect between the level of concern consumers have for the security of their privacy and their willingness to hand over personal information to unknown or untrusted third parties for the sake of convenience.

For the survey, Ponemon asked more than 100,000 adults to name up to five companies they believed to be the most trusted for protecting the privacy of their personal information. The institute assigned each company a trust score, based on the ranking and number of positive responses it received from respondents.

Though the institute asserted that the research "provides an unambiguous measure of how consumers perceive the privacy and personal data protection practices of specific organizations," Ponemon stressed that the ratings "may not reflect at all the actual privacy practices of the company and its efforts to protect the personal information of its customers and employees."

Here's the top 20 list, along with the trust scores assigned to the top 10 companies. (The report didn't include the scores for numbers 11 through 20.) Note that a lower score is better:

  1. American Express with a trust score of 70. Notably, the company has claimed the No. 1 spot every year since 2007 and has a seven-year ranking average of 1.1.
  2. HP is in the No. 2 spot for the second year in a row, with a trust score of 73. Its average ranking over seven years is 5.6.
  3. Amazon, up from the five spot last year, earned a score of 89 and has an average ranking of 4.4.
  4. IBM secured a trust score of 91 -- dropping from the No. 3 spot last year. The company's average ranking is 4.3.
  5. The U.S. Post Office scored 99, up from the No. 6 slot last year. The agency's average ranking is now 6.0.
  6. Procter and Gamble, with a score of 109, shared the No. 6 spot with the Post Office last year. Its overall average ranking is 5.9.
  7. USAA earned a score of 110, jumping four places from 11th spot place last year. Over the past seven years, the company has average ranking has been 12.2.
  8. Nationwide held at 8th place with a score of 113, consistent with its 8.4 seven-year average ranking.
  9. eBay tumbled from its fourth-place perch, earning a score of 114. The company's average ranking is 8.4.
  10. Intuit remained in 10th place, this year earning a score of 118. Over seven years, the company's average ranking has been 12.4.
  11. Verizon rose from last year's 12th-place ranking and has an average ranking of 13.5.
  12. Johnson and Johnson and FedEx tied at 12th place, with the former falling from 7th last year and the latter moving up from 15th. Johnson and Johnson's average ranking is now 8.7, whereas FedEx's is 15.8.
  13. WebMD dropped down to 13th from the 9th spot and has an average ranking now of 11.4.
  14. Weight Watchers rose from the 17th slot and has an average ranking of 16.5.
  15. Microsoft made its debut to the list this year, giving it a seven-year average ranking of 17.0.
  16. United Healthcare also made its debut this year and has a seven-year average of, you guessed it, 18.0.
  17. Visa made the list for the second year in a row, slipping from 16th place. Its average ranking is now 17.0.
  18. AT&T is on the list for the third straight year and now has an average ranking of 19.3.
  19. Like Microsoft, Mozilla is a newcomer to the list, giving it an average ranking of 20.0.
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