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President Compares Marketing and Government Surveillance, DMA Sets the Record Straight


Post Date: January 17, 2014
By: Susan Taplinger

This morning, President Obama delivered an address at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC, regarding changes to National Security Agency (NSA) programs.  While his remarks focused on government surveillance, the President also commented on the use of consumer data by the business community, as well as related privacy issues.

In speaking about the Administration review of NSA programs in recent months, the President noted that “there was a recognition by all who participated in these reviews that the challenges to our privacy do not come from government alone. Corporations of all shapes and sizes track what you buy, store and analyze our data, and use it for commercial purposes; that’s how those targeted ads pop up on your computer or smartphone. But all of us understand that the standards for government surveillance must be higher.”

In his address, the President also called for a “comprehensive review of big data and privacy,” to be led by long-time advisor John Podesta.  According to his remarks, the review will include government officials who will reach out to privacy experts, technologists and business leaders to “look at how the challenges inherent in big data are being confronted by both the public and private sectors; whether we can forge international norms on how to manage this data; and how we can continue to promote the free flow of information in ways that are consistent with both privacy and security.”

Consumer privacy has been a focus for the Administration in recent years, particularly since the introduction of a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights in February 2012, which seeks to improve consumers’ privacy protections in the information age and promoting the continued growth of the digital economy.

While a nod to continued Administration focus on consumer privacy in the President’s remarks was unsurprising, DMA was disappointed to see the responsible use of consumer data for marketing purposes conflated with “government surveillance.”  As revelations regarding NSA practices have come to light in recent months, DMA has been working hard to make it clear to policymakers and the media that issues around government surveillance are not related to data-driven marketing.

For more than four decades, DMA has ensured that data is used responsibly across the data-driven marketing industry, creating and enforcing Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice to ensure that consumers have robust transparency and meaningful choices about how data is used for marketing purposes.

DMA is also focused on protecting the incredible benefits provided to consumers, businesses and the economy when consumer data is used responsibly to fuel data-driven marketing and innovation.  A recent “Value of Data” study commissioned by the DMA’s Data-Driven Marketing Institute and undertaken by Professors John Deighton of Harvard Business School and Peter Johnson of Columbia University found that the Data-Driven Marketing Economy provided $156 billion in revenue to the U.S. economy in 2012 alone, and fueled more than 675,000 jobs across the country.  Limiting the responsible use of data by data-driven marketers would impact innovation, small businesses, jobs and economic growth – and would ultimately hurt consumers by limiting choices and raising prices.

As the President calls upon government officials to continue its focus on “big data and privacy,” DMA reiterates its call for Congress to protect our data-driven economy by focusing its legislative efforts around data policy on “Five Fundamentals for the Future:”

  • Pass a national data security and breach notification law;
  • Preempt state laws that endanger the value of data;
  • Prohibit privacy class action suits and fund Federal Trade Commission enforcement;
  • Reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA); and
  • Preserve robust self-regulation for the Data-Driven Marketing Economy.

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