Privacy could be the next big business imperative, and now it can be tested with a free self-assessment guide: the Privacy Diagnostic Tool (PDT), unveiled last month by Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian.

Good privacy policy is good business policy, as it fosters consumer confidence, brand recognition and customer loyalty, said Cavoukian, speaking to executives and media during a press conference at the University of Toronto.

“There is no more ‘business as usual.’ The PDT is a self-administered diagnostic tool that provides a snapshot of an organization’s privacy posture and creates a roadmap of what it needs to do to meet international privacy standards. Privacy is an ongoing and dynamic process,” Cavoukian said.

Jointly developed by the Information and Privacy Commission of Ontario and security and privacy experts from Toronto-based firms PricewaterhouseCoopers and Guardent, the PDT helps companies to assess personal information management policies and allows consumers to investigate the privacy policies of prospective businesses. Personal information includes name, address, gender, age, income, medical files and transactional or behavioral information.

“The PDT is more about best practice rather than basic compliance,” added Michael Deck, privacy director for PricewaterhouseCoopers Global Risk Management Services.

In 2000, online sales accounted for only 0.4 per cent of Canadian business revenue, Cavoukian noted. Consumer mistrust of online security is growing and any company that collects or discloses personal information should consider using the PDT, Cavoukian said.