It’s time to pay attention. It’s time to ask yourself, “What happens to my business if data-driven marketing goes away or is severely limited?” The answer is not good.
There is a trifecta affecting data-driven marketing that could result in a perfect storm of terrible legislation this year.
- Congress, the Federal Trade Commission and the Government Accountability Office are all investigating “data brokers” – and questioning the most basic uses of consumer data for marketing purposes. That might not sound relevant to your organization., but DMA has learned in direct conversation with these legislators and regulators that they define “data broker” extremely broadly, including just about any company or nonprofit that collects, aggregates, analyzes, shares, sells or buys consumer data. We believe that such a definition would include almost all DMA members and data-driven marketers.
- The 112th Congress saw more than three dozen privacy and data security bills introduced, and this year, the 113th Congress is on track to surpass that avalanche of legislative attacks on the use of consumer data. Recently, Representative Hank Johnson (GA-04) introduced the APPS Act to limit the collection and use of data through applications, saying that app stores “threaten the physical and financial safety of consumers.” Senator John D. Rockefeller, Chairman of the powerful Senate Commerce Committee, has re-introduced his “Do Not Track Me Online” bill, stating that the legislation “gives consumers the opportunity to simply say ‘no thank you’ to anyone and everyone collecting their online information. Period.”
- The States are getting in on the action too by pursuing bills that would set up conflicting standards in Maryland and California for marketing to children, and new regulations limiting online behavioral advertising.
To be clear, protecting consumer privacy is a good thing, and DMA’s mission is to advance and protect responsible data-driven marketers. A key focus of DMA is to develop and enforce Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice that show marketers the way. Our self-regulatory program has worked for 40 years. Legislation to limit the collection and use of consumer data would be bad for consumers and the economy.
Unfortunately, often it’s not until the process is complete – and a new law or regulation is passed – that many marketers start to pay attention. It’s easy to ignore Congress, particularly when Congress has done so little in the last few years on the issues that really matter to most Americans. Marketers tell me all the time that they only wake up at the end of the process. That while they recognize the potential threats, they believe that what gets passed always looks totally different than what is introduced. They expect DMA to be tracking the process – and to alert marketers when it’s time to get involved. (We do. I am!)
When the issues being regulated are complex and technical, the risk of getting a “bad” bill or regulation increases exponentially. It is specifically because Congress won’t tackle the big issues that really matter that it will delve into the ones that don’t — like whether consumers mind being targeted for marketing offers. For many DMA members, this would severely impact your business – or even shut it down; not to mention erase all the benefits to consumers of our data-driven lifestyle. That’s why it’s very important that industry – DMA and all of you – step up to ensure that policymakers are educated on how our ecosystem works.
DMA can’t do it alone. Consider this your alert.
DMA introduced our Data-Driven Marketing Institute last year to specifically combat these threats to our data-driven lifestyle. I urge you all to take the DMA Pledge and join our efforts to correct any misunderstanding about responsible data-driven marketing.
NOTE: Thanks to Charles E. Weller for our play on the headline.