As the July 1 deadline nears, insurers have developed and begun to distribute their privacy policies to customers, but most companies in general haven't thought about privacy as a component of customer relationship management (CRM), industry observers say."No one is looking at privacy from the perspective of how can we establish a value proposition in which the customers will say, 'yes, please share my information,'" says Peter Reid, privacy director at Fiderus, a Research Triangle, N.C.-based security and privacy consulting firm. Privacy can be good for business-as opposed to something that is being legislated, he says.

The majority of Americans are "privacy pragmatists," according to Dr. Alan Westin, president and publisher of Privacy & American Business at the Center for Social and Legal Research, Hackensack, N.J., who conducted a survey last year with Opinion Research Corp. and ChoicePoint Inc.

Privacy pragmatists, who make up 63% of Americans (126 million adults), are willing to share some personal information if they believe they will derive value from sharing and if they trust the industry or company receiving their information.

Many consumers accept cross-marketing, and most companies don't market products and services to people that don't fit their needs, says Kirk Herath, chief privacy officer at Nationwide Insurance Co., Columbus, Ohio. "If you're 40 years old, and you've got two kids who are 18 and 19, a company may cross-market a home equity loan to you at a time when you're trying to get your kids educated, or you're trying to remodel your house, or you want to go on vacation because you just spent 20 years raising kids," he says.

Consumers are beginning to expect companies to be proactive in how they deal with their privacy preferences, says Gloria Switzer, senior product manager at Experian, an Orange, Calif.-based company that offers privacy notification services to financial institutions.

"It's not just going to be an opt-in or opt-out," she says. "Privacy is basically marketing to people the way they want to be marketed to."

"A lot of this comes down to how you implement a customer relationship management system," Fiderus' Reid says. "They can be built to include this information, but few businesses today are actually doing it."

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