White Plains, NY—During her session at list firm Direct Media’s 30th Annual Mailers Conference & Co-op here on March 25, Direct Marketing Association vice president ethics and consumer affairs Patricia Faley Kachura warned attendees that as more technologies come into the fore, direct marketers’ privacy headaches are only going to intensify. “It’s not going to be an easy time for direct marketers,” Faley Kachura said. “With every technology that comes up, marketers need to know how to give consumers an opportunity to” maintain their personal privacy.
Faley Kachura noted that privacy has become so much more of a relevant issue today for the industry that her association serves that even a growing number of business-to-business marketers have taken voluntary initiatives to ward off the kinds of issues that their business-to-consumer brethren have to this point had to handle the most. “The press and politicians love this issue,” she said. “It involves the government at every level and virtually every industry segment.”
Turning her focus to consumer mailers, Faley Kachura noted that a recent study showed that 69% of consumers said they’ve lost all control over how personal information about them is collected and used by businesses.
Taking a look at the privacy issues this year that states have been dealing with, Faley Kachura noted that despite the federal Can-Spam law passed at the beginning of the year, which renders virtually all spam-related state laws moot, some states have continued to work on developing spam laws that aren’t preempted by federal law. States are also looking to prevent pop-up ads from appearing on competitive Websites, and for ways to eliminate spyware on consumers’ computers.
What’s more, states are looking at radio frequency chips that marketers want to use for scanning things for inventory and theft control. Some states, Faley Kachura said, are also looking at voice-over Internet protocol. “The old standard telephone service is regulated,” she said. “So the first thing now is to regulate voice-over Internet service. We’re going to see a lot more in this area.”
Some states are also seeking to create child data registries to prohibit adult advertising to kids who registered via e-mail, instant message, cell phone, fax, or P.O. boxes “so marketers won’t mail to them,” Faley Kachura said. “We’re actually very worried that this could create the contrary: a list of how to contact children.”
With a mounting array of privacy concerns, particularly related to the Internet and e-mail, Faley Kachura said it might be time for the DMA to toughen its “privacy promise” that was launched in 1999. Among the improvements marketers can make in improving their privacy practices—perhaps through a tougher DMA privacy promise—is to speed up suppression timing. “Thirty days is too long from a consumer standpoint,” she said.
Furthermore, consumers need more adequate notice on how their data is being used by marketers—particularly about the timing of such notice. “Some marketers might give notice to consumers after the data has been transferred,” Faley Kachura said. “So the consumers don’t know who has that data now. This is what we often hear from consumers—‘How can I pull all that data about me back?’”