Three reasons your breach notices are flawed

Still using the less-is-more approach to notification letters? As it turns out, consumers want more – much more than they’re getting.

In a new study, 72% of consumers who recall receiving a notification letter express disappointment. The Ponemon Institute explores why in the 2012 Consumer Study on Data Breach Notification.

Among all survey respondents, those who do and do not recall receiving a notice, 85% verify that learning about the loss or theft of their data is pertinent to them. But only if there’s a certainty of risk, a belief shared by 57% of respondents. An even larger percentage (63%) feels entitled to compensation, such as credit monitoring or identity protection, if their data is lost.

Yet, despite having clear ideas on what they do or don’t want following the loss of their data, most consumers aren’t paying attention to breach notices, according to Ponemon. Only 25% of participants in the study could recall receiving one. Among that group, 35% recalled receiving at least three.

Download the 2012 Consumer Study on Data Breach Notification to find out why consumers are critical of the notification letters they receive.

It’s this subset of the study that provides valuable insight into why today’s notifications aren’t working. Here are three flaws:

1. Too Few Details
Sixty-seven percent of respondents who recall receiving a breach notice did not receive enough information about the incident. That includes 44% who did not know what type of data had been lost or stolen, leaving them unsure of what steps to take to protect themselves.

2. Difficult to Understand
Sixty-one percent did not understand the notification, largely due to the length of the letter and complexity of the language. In addition, 37% had no idea what the incident was about even after reading the notice. This led 41% to assume their data had been stolen.

3. Not Believable
Forty-five percent found the message in the letter unbelievable, and 44% of them believed the company was hiding key facts about the breach.

Consumers acted on their disappointment to varying degrees:
• 15% planned to terminate their relationship with the breached company
• 39% contemplated doing so
• 35% would continue the relationship so long as the organization doesn’t experience another breach

The numbers reflect poorly on today’s notification efforts, confirming the need for change. Consumers want simple language and clear explanations of what happened and the risks they face, plus a protection product to compensate for the data exposure, according to the study.

So why not work with your legal counsel to deliver just that in a way that protects your company and satisfies your consumers? Otherwise, your breach notices will continue to alienate and confuse. As this study shows, that only serves to erode customer loyalty and trust, making data loss even more costly in the long run.