Inside 1to1:Privacy

Privacy policy? Ask what the consumer wants

December 9, 2010

By Jennifer L. Saunders

A Q&A with Qwest CPO Andy Holleman

Following up on our feature on efforts by companies to bring their stakeholders' ideas and concerns into the process of creating or revising privacy policies, Inside 1to1: Privacy asked Qwest Chief Privacy Officer Andy Holleman about the implementation of the company's updated policy, which is now in effect after a lengthy comment and review period.

Inside 1to1: Privacy: What was the response to the effort to gain consumer feedback on the privacy policy?
Holleman: Starting in mid-May and running through mid-July 2010, we sent out notice of the update to the policy and the opportunity for customers to provide feedback. We provided this notice on the outside of the envelope of more than six million hard-copy bills and in more than 750,000 e-mail messages to our e-bill customers. We also had a notice on the top of our Web site,, posted links to the updated policy from Qwest's social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook and issued a press release. From the time notice began until we posted the final policy on August 20, about 1,300 customers contacted us through our e-mail addresses and opt-out page. Other customers may have called or e-mailed directly into our business offices, though we asked them to contact us through our privacy mailboxes, and we don't have a count for those.

Inside 1to1: Privacy: Were there any trends in the responses that you received?

Holleman: A little more than 85 percent of the contacts were requests to be added to Qwest's do-not-call, do-not-mail or do-not-e-mail lists. A fair number of the other responses were unrelated questions about bills or accounts. We also received input from a small number of customers that it was too difficult for them to make choices about marketing contacts from Qwest.

Inside 1to1: Privacy: Were there any questions or concerns raised that brought changes to your policy, or was the response more on target with your expectations?

Holleman: The input about the difficulty of making choices about marketing contacts from Qwest made sense to us. Previously, we required e-mails or calls for some categories of choices about marketing and had a Web page for others. As a result of this feedback, and after discussing it with our marketing folks, we built a single Web portal where customers can tell us their choices about receiving marketing from Qwest by phone, mail or e-mail. It is available through a link in the policy.

Inside 1to1: Privacy: Did you have a sense from your consumers that they appreciated having the chance to be heard on privacy issues?

Holleman: The response from the privacy community was certainly positive. And we got some positive feedback from customers. But, most of the customers who took the effort to respond to us either wanted a change in the way we contact them or had a specific account question. Nonetheless, we think the work we put into the policy in advance of seeking feedback--organizing it as we did, working hard to keep it in plain language, thinking through and evaluating with others what customers wanted to know about--all enabled us to put together a better product, one that would be more understandable and useful to our customers, our most important constituency.

Inside 1to1: Privacy: Any other experiences or insights from this initiative that you would like to share?

Holleman: In the last week, I have referred at least three times to specific provisions in the new policy in my discussions about various issues with internal clients and in response to media inquiries. I could have used the old policies in these situations, but they weren't organized as neatly, and the language wasn't as clear. So, going through the hard work of clarifying structure and language in the policy has paid off in helping us more effectively address customer issues and internal issues.