PRIVACY -- WHY NOW?
The presence of names and addresses on mailing lists -- and the commercial
availability of those names and addresses -- has been questioned on a periodic
basis by privacy proponents, the media and government officials alike going
back to at least the late 1960s.
Today, the issue is more important to direct marketers than it's been in three
The Visibility of our Business. Over the course of 30 years, from the
explosion of credit cards to the advent of personal computers to the new
marketing realities in cyberspace today, the process of direct marketing has
attained new heights of marketing success. With this meteoric success, the
business has also faced scrutiny on numerous aspects of the privacy issue.
In 1995, direct marketing sales in the U.S. economy exceeded $1 trillion for the first time, generating employment for more than 19 million Americans.
From Fortune 500 companies to entrepreneurial start-ups, direct marketing
has become big business in this Information Age. And the information
management aspects of direct marketing in the United States are largely
This is no accident. Time and time again, direct marketing businesses and
organizations have risen to the challenge, and demonstrated to public
policymakers that this business is motivated in its concern for consumers, and
their confidence in the direct marketing process. Direct marketing businesses
respect consumer choice regarding information use in the marketing process.
Self-Regulation: Is it Effective? The Direct Marketing Association has
enhanced this culture of respect for consumer choice for many years. Since
the 1960s, DMA has administered a successful self-regulation program that
has met with wide consumer and industry acceptance.
The presence of self-regulatory guidelines, the development of industry-wide
Mail and Telephone Preference Service name-removal programs, and the
continuing adherence to those guidelines by direct marketers, have helped to
counter the efforts of some critics looking for broad government intervention.
Over the years, DMA has supported limited government regulation concerning
the misuse of information in such areas as credit, cable and video, as they
relate to direct marketing. In general, this targeted approach to regulation,
combined with DMA's own self-regulation, has been an effective means of
protecting millions of at-home shoppers.
Development of Online Media. We are all are fascinated by the Internet, and
the potentials of commerce on the World Wide Web. While millions of
consumers have been quick to embrace this technology, we have heard calls for
regulation -- particularly from the traditional Internet community which
laments the advent of online commerce.
PRIVACY -- WHY NOW? -- 2/
The Federal Trade Commission has held several workshops examining
cyberspace, privacy and commerce -- but, thus far, has seen no reason to
implement new regulations. Nonetheless, the workshops have been a platform
for privacy advocates who seek controls on marketers, particularly where
children are involved. And the FTC has also made it clear -- if industry does
not acto to address consumer concerns in cyberspace, it will regulate.
Privacy zealots claim that all information management practices -- no matter
what the media of marketing -- requires regulatory or legislative attention.
Consumers, however, take a very different approach. Consumer studies show
that as much as three quarters of the population consider themselves "privacy
pragmatists" and are willing to provide information to marketing organizations
in exchange for perceived benefits. They also are pragmatic about participating
in information exchange as long as they have the opportunity to opt out. The
disclosure and use of in-house name suppression, and list cleaning technics
using MPS and TPS files in a merge-purge offers a credible, effective response
to consumer privacy concerns.
DMA has come foward with self-regulatory ethics principles for online notice
and opt out, the sending of unsolicited advertising e-mail and marketing online
to children to keep the direct marketing business ahead of the need for
regulation, and to give the cyberspace medium the chance to grow as an
effective vehicle for dialogue between marketers, prospects and customers.
Sensitive Information: Children -- Another area of concern that has ignited
the privacy issue, brought to light by recent news stories, is children's safety
issues in relation to databases.
As a marketer, information about children, including data which shows the
presence of children in households, is an important component of any direct
marketing campaign which reaches out to parents and children.
At the same time, children's safety is an issue everyone cares about.
As all responsible marketers know, it is imperative that databases which
include information on children are kept secure and are used for responsible
purposes only. Marketers are aware that since the direct marketing of
products and services to children began decades ago, there has never been an
instance where the presence of marketing information on children, somehow
was used in a criminal act.
Recent events show, however, that the security of data, the usefulness of this
information in the marketplace, and the absence of any kind of a connection to
a crime, is not enough to stave off unnecessary legislative attention.
PRIVACY -- WHY NOW? -- 3/
The occurrence of a spectacular crime -- the kidnapping and murder of Polly
Klaas -- has led her father Mark Klaas to launch "Kids Off Lists." This effort
seeks to remove children's information from the nation's databases, unless
parental consent is secured. Klaas believes this effort will enhance child safety.
Law enforcement officials are emphatic in their belief otherwise. In testimony
before Congress, one police official noted that there is no evidence of a
commercial mailing list ever being used to commit a crime against a child.
Most child molesters, he reported, join youth organizations and groups, or use
telephone directories or online pen pal sites to look for their victims.
Commercial mailing lists, in fact, are a positive force in crime-solving, helping
to locate missing and abducted children, and provide children with educational
opportunities and resources.
Nonetheless, Klaas's effort has garnered some Congressional support. While
the legislation has not progressed forward, thanks due in part to the input of
law enforcement, the media attention given to Klaas, and to his continuing
effort to link direct marketing to pedophiles and child killers, has been
significant. The lack of logic in his arguments has not stopped the sensational
DMA has come forward with sensible ethics principles for marketing online to
children, and has long had an ethics guideline for other media that requires
marketers to take into account the age of children when marketing to them.
However, scrutiny of children's marketing activity is as close as ever. Direct
marketers need to ensure that their marketing programs to households with
children provide responsive personal information protection practices.
A Call to Action -- There are several other "drivers" of the privacy debate:
widespread access to public records, protection of medical and financial
information, new telecommunications technology, among others. Each of them
touch direct marketing in some way.
The common feature is that all these aspects of the privacy debate can be
managed successfully if direct marketers are able to keep their house in
order. The choice lies with each direct marketer.
The times require the utmost vigilance of the direct marketing business to keep
consumer needs and concerns in focus. This kit provides a framework for
action, so your company can lead on this issue, and keep the business
growing. Take privacy action now!