DMA has learned that Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), chairman of the powerful Senate Commerce Committee, is planning a hearing on “do not track” legislation after Congress returns from its Spring Break.

This is not particularly surprising since Senator Rockefeller reintroduced his own “Do Not Track Online” Act (S. 418) just a few weeks ago.  His bill, which was first introduced in 2011 but not prioritized in the 112th Congress, would direct the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to create an online “do not track” standard and give the FTC power to regulate the collection and use of information obtained from the tracking of an individual’s online activity across the entire Internet. (Want more detail?  DMA prepared a full analysis of the 2011 bill for its members when it was first introduced.)

Surprising or not, it is worth noting that Senator Rockefeller’s hearing will be the first privacy-focused hearing of the 113th Congress – and certainly not the last.  Here begins a long – and likely heated – congressional debate about whether and what new legislation is needed to limit the collection and use of consumer data for marketing purposes.  And right out of the starting gate, the tone of the debate is pretty darn hostile.

“Online companies are collecting massive amounts of information, often without consumers’ knowledge or consent,” Rockefeller said when he reintroduced his bill.  “Consumers should be empowered to make their own decision about whether their information can be tracked and used online.  Industry stood at the White House and made a public pledge to honor “do not track” requests, but has since failed to live up to that commitment.  My bill gives consumers the opportunity to simply say ‘no thank you’ to anyone and everyone collecting their online information.  Period.”

To put it even more bluntly…one of the most powerful policymakers on Capitol Hill thinks that industry self-regulation is a failure and that consumers should be able to stop the flows of information that power data-driven marketing – and the Internet economy as a whole – with one click of a button.

Yikes. We data-driven marketers clearly have our work cut out for us.

Luckily, DMA has been on the case for months now – ever since launching the Data-Driven Marketing Institute (DDMI) back in October 2012.  With the help of data-driven marketers who have already answered DMA’s call to action, DDMI is working hard to increase understanding and improve perceptions of data-driven marketing among policymakers, consumers and the media.  All with the goal of preventing the kind of needless regulation that could severely hamper data-driven marketing and stifle innovation, reducing benefits to individual consumers and the economy as a whole.  Some have written letters to Congress, others joined us on Capitol Hill during DMA in DC 2013 – all with the goal of setting the record straight about the benefits of data-driven marketing.

But our “DDMI Army” of data-driven marketers is still much too small.

Now is the time to ask yourself what would happen to your organization if Senator Rockefeller’s vision became reality – if you were suddenly unable to use consumer data to drive your marketing or fundraising.  Would you survive?  (Rhetorical question – we both know the very scary answer.)

Make no mistake.  DMA is in it to win it.  As the privacy games begin, we need YOU to take the DMA Pledge and join our efforts to advance and protect responsible data-driven marketing.

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