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Inside HP's proactive approach to privacy

HP's Design for Privacy initiative offers customers the flexibility to make their own data decisions.

When it comes down to it, privacy legislation and business policies revolve around simple common sense. All it takes is a willingness to look at a product or service from the customer's point of view -- basically, to think about how you would want to be treated if you were the customer.

And for the past 18 months, Palo Alto, Calif.-based Hewlett-Packard has been quietly asking its product engineers to do this, through an enterprise-wide initiative called "Design for Privacy" that has received accolades and prompted one customer to send an e-mail saying that HP's privacy policy "rocks."

The Design for Privacy initiative was created to deal with the fact that, increasingly, HP's products require personal identifiable information (PII) to provide key benefits, noted Barb Lawler, chief privacy officer at HP. Digital cameras can share pictures on the Web, for instance, or a printer can order new ink automatically when it runs low. HP decided that a proactive approach to privacy was important to give customers control over their level of data sharing.

"It was critical to put a strategy and framework around the fact that our products not only meet our standard privacy policies, but global standards," said Lawler, who spearheads the program. "We wanted to make sure that customers have flexibility" to make their own data decisions.

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The company's engineers had been working on a project called "design for environment," which took environmental concerns into product development. So why not design for privacy as well? At the start of a product's development, HP privacy managers sit with engineers and product managers to analyze ways that privacy can be incorporated into specific products and accompanying software. "We're trying to take the privacy perspective at the earliest possible time, while it's still easy to make adjustments and most cost-effective," said Beth Nidzieko, engineering program manager in HP's Imaging and Printing division.

The initiative began there in September 2004, with products rolling out to consumers by spring 2005.

With the new process, the team will proactively review more than 100 products that will go to millions of customers, added Mark Albrecht, consumer privacy manager in HP's Imaging and Printing division. Now, the products and software installations will provide greater notice and choice to customers about their level of data-sharing. "Customers win because now they get to customize their software installation so they don't get things that they don't want," he said.

The customer perspective

The biggest improvement in customer experience is the heightened control customers have over their own personal data. "We are customers ourselves, so what we did made sense to us as consumers as well as developers," Nidzieko said.

In the consumer inkjet printer category, for instance, all end users were previously invited to participate in market research programs. Now, only those who choose to install the market research component receive invitations.

"We expect fewer support calls and a general increase in customer satisfaction," Albrecht said. "This increased satisfaction will also translate into revenue as we better retain the customers we have and turn more of our customers into HP evangelists."

Employee involvement

Key to the success of the initiative in such a large organization has been executive support, Lawler explained. Beyond the privacy managers in each division, she cited human resources, CRM, and legal department employees as being strong partners as the initiative moves forward.

What's also crucial is that HP employees already have a strong privacy foundation. In a recent internal survey, 91 % of HP employees believe they are personally responsible for protecting personal data.

"It's an incredible percentage, given how large an organization it is," Lawler said.

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Copyright © 2005 Carlson Marketing Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Peppers & Rogers Group is a Carlson Marketing Group Company.

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