Direct marketing increasingly relies on personalization, but its future is also clouded by the possibility of government-imposed restrictions on Internet data collection for the purposes of target marketing. The Federal Trade Commission has said it is considering recommending such regulation, and numerous Internet privacy bills have been introduced in Congress. The marketing industry has argued for self-regulation.
The simmering conflict was underscored in August when FTC member Julie Brill wrote a column in the Washington Post equating the collection of Internet browsing behavior for advertising purposes with the data-collection practices of the National Security Agency, which have attracted much controversy recently. Brill wrote that companies that collect Internet data for marketing purposes “push legal boundaries.”
Last month, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) demanded that 12 websites that focus on personal finance and health divulge whether they share consumer data with third parties. Rockefeller charged that data brokers obtain data from websites that collect and pass on personal information they gather from surveys, sweepstakes and questionnaires.
“Americans have fully embraced a data-driven way of life, and the countless economic and social benefits they derive from responsible data use,” said Peggy Hudson, DMA's co-senior VP-government affairs, criticizing Rockefeller's move. Hudson was hired by DMA last month to succeed Cerasale, who will retire at the end of the year.
“We as an industry have a responsibility to educate members of Congress about the differences between what marketers collect as data and the NSA,” Hudson said. “And it is unfortunate that Rockefeller has chosen to single out a couple of poorly named marketing categories as a reason to demagogue an industry that is the brightest beacon of American innovation.
“We continue to stress that self-regulation is critically important,” Hudson said.