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Apple slips out of top 20 in privacy trust rankings

For the first time in three years, Apple is not among the top 20 most trusted companies for privacy, according to the Ponemon Institute's 2012 list.

The iPhone maker, once listed in the top ten most trusted companies, fell six spots this year to land at number 21, according to the latest rankings of the 2012 Most Trusted Companies list published its this week. The annual study asked participants to name the companies they believed most trustworthy in protecting the privacy of their personal information.

Apple ranked as high as eighth place on Ponemon's list in 2009, but the next two years saw the company slipping to 12th place in 2010 and 14th in 2011. The 2012 list finds Apple ranking below 20th place Mozilla, in the company of Google and Facebook.

Topping Ponemon's list of most trusted companies: American Express, Hewlett Packard, Amazon, IBM, and the US Postal Service.

User privacy has long been a point of pride for Apple, and the company has gone to some lengths to protect that privacy. Last year, CEO Tim Cook reportedly "grilled" Path co-founder Dave Morin when it was revealed that the app was uploading users' address books without their permission.

In the wake of the Path incident, Apple announced new privacy protections, requiring explicit user permission before an app could access contact information.

Also, in June, Apple detailed a new tracking tool for mobile developers that would allow app makers to serve ads and collect location and preference dat without exposing identifiable information about users or their devices.

Still the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in December published a report saying that app stores like those run by Apple and Google don't do enough to protect privacy in apps for children.

For the Ponemon survey, respondents were asked to name five companies across any of 25 different industries they trusted most with protecting their information. Having asked 100,000 adult-aged consumers, Ponemon's study yielded 6,704 usable responses.