By Jennifer L. Saunders
Qwest Communications has an updated privacy policy set to go into effect on or after August 2, but before that happens, the company has made the revisions available to its customers in an effort to gather and review feedback.

Qwest is inviting its customers to access and review its revised privacy policy and frequently asked questions and submit their comments on the plan.

"Our whole objective in this update was to put the information together in a way that is easier for customers to understand," Qwest Chief Privacy Officer Andy Holleman, CIPP, told Inside 1to1: Privacy, adding that providing customers with an opportunity to let the company know if the revised policy meets those goals "just seemed like the right thing to do."

According to an explanation included with the privacy policy, Qwest does collect customer information to provide its services. "We also share it as needed to meet our business goals or fulfill our legal obligations," the statement reads. "We protect the information we have about our customers, and we require those we share it with to protect it too."

While it is more time-consuming to solicit and review customer feedback before enacting a privacy policy, Holleman said the company believes it is good business practice to engage its customers in the process.

Qwest's customers, he said, "are our lifeblood...We have to maintain relationships, and those relationships are really important to us."

With the updates, Holleman said, the hope is to clarify the company's policy and to make it simple for customers to review their choices.

"We think our customers deserve clear and accurate explanations concerning the information we have about them, how we use it, and the choices that are available to them," he explained.

In making the policy public, the company hopes that if its users do not feel the revised policy does those things, this will "give them the opportunity to tell us that."

Director of Corporate Communications and Government Relations Tom McMahon explained that toward the goal of making the privacy policies accessible, all information has been made available in both Spanish and English in text and video form.

Qwest began notifying its customers of the updates in early May, Holleman explained, sending a notice out with each billing statement. Some responses have already begun coming in, he confirmed, "but not a flood."

Holleman said the plan is to evaluate all the responses once the submission deadline has passed and to determine whether changes are necessary based on the feedback from customers.

"There has been a very long process to get the revisions made, to work it through with plain language experts and to make sure we had the description of our business processes right," Holleman explained, adding that allowing time for feedback from customers "to make sure we've got it right with that most important group just made sense.

Jules Polonetsky, CIPP, co-chair and director of the Future of Privacy Forum said,"This is a very positive trend that is starting to pick up some steam. Facebook launched a governance input effort last year that got a good deal of attention, but some considered it to be unique to their community audience. A short time later, AT&T led the way by putting out for public comment its draft consolidation of multiple privacy policies into one simpler version, and it got a large response of valuable feedback from users about how to best address key issues. Qwest's decision shows that this is increasingly a way companies can build trust by engaging users about how their data is used."

Feedback on the privacy policies or questions about the plan may be e-mailed to privacy@qwest.com or sent to Qwest Privacy Group, 1801 California St., Suite 1160, Denver, CO 80202 by July 23.


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