The crackerjack government affairs team at DMA are experts at all the stuff we in industry often wish we didn’t have to know or worry about. However, as the team went quickly but knowledgeably through some of the myriad of privacy, data access and reform issues that DMA tracks, monitors and builds coalitions around,  I am not the only person here taking furious notes!  The list is LONG and somewhat frightening in its scope and intensity.

“What we do in government affairs is work with the DMA Board-appointed Ethics Policy Committee – and our members – to get our self-regulatory positions together, so we can demonstrate that the industry is already acting responsibly,”  said Jerry Cerasale,  SVP of Government Affairs for DMA.   The discipline that every marketer practices every day is what gives us our legitimate voice on the Hill and in State Capitals, he said.

Senny Boone, General Counsel and SVP of Corporate Social Responsibility for DMA, manages the important compliance function of DMA, which is essential to our role as manager of the public trust between industry and consumers.  “The work we do to address consumer complaints and provide consumer tools that help thousands of consumers to opt out or express their desire for choice are essential to our self-regulatory status,” Senny says.  “We publish the names of those companies (members and non-members) that do not follow responsible practices as part of our role as steward for the industry to maintain a self-regulatory presence,”  Senny says.

“Responsible marketing practices benefit both consumers and the economy, as our lives become increasingly data-driven,” says Linda Woolley, CEO of DMA.  “Never before in my time in government affairs have I seen so much attention on the issues that affect data-driven marketers.”

The Expansive Definition of “Data Broker”

In fact, every data-driven marketer could be at risk of regulation from Congress right now, says Rachel Thomas, VP, Government Affairs, DMA.  “Government is more  and more considering every data-driven marketer as a ‘data broker’ – the definition of which is more around anyone who collects, uses, aggregates, takes in or shares data with any third party,” she says.  “If you do any of those things, you may be a ‘data broker’ under the proposed law.”   This is a very different definition of what we in industry think of as a “data broker,” which is usually describing a very particular type of business.

“Under this definition, many government agencies would also be considered a ‘data broker’ – an irony that is not lost on DMA,” Jerry added.  Noting that we all  need to be aware of the threats, he adds that, “Just because we in the industry don’t apply that term to ourselves, doesn’t mean that Congress isn’t thinking that way.”

States are also very active in protecting consumer privacy this year, particularly in Maryland, California, Indiana and Massachusetts says Ron Barnes, VP of State Government Affairs for DMA.   For example, he says, the California Attorney General  recently released an extensive series of guidelines on how mobile marketers and app providers should provide privacy notices.  “It’s currently unclear as to whether these are actual  regulatory guidelines or offered as an indicator of how the AG will be interpreting California law,” Ron says.  However, a major airlines was sued by the California Attorney General’s office for the way their mobile flight check-in app handles consumer privacy, Ron says.

Privacy threats to our industry are not limited to American shores.  The European Union is proposing some new regulations that would require things like “right to be forgotten” and that all data must be transparent and restricted  for any EU citizen across any borders,  Jerry says.  Fortunately the Obama Administration has, through the State Department, said that the American privacy regime is good without the kind of top-down approach found in Europe.  However, we must find a way to accommodate any national differences in managing global data, Jerry says.

With a reminder to all the non-profits in the room and among DMA membership, Senny says, “These privacy laws at both the federal and state levels do not exempt non-profits – these laws do apply to non-profits just as they do for all business.”

Translating Privacy Guidelines to The Third Screen

DMA is spending a lot of time now adapting our Online Data Use principles to the mobile environment, Rachel says.  In fact, the NTIA of the U.S Commerce Department has been leading a multi-stakeholder project to develop principles around consumer data protection, collection and use.  “The key issue is on developing the right kind of notice to give people in a mobile environment,” she says,   DMA is extending our own online Guidelines which focus not just around notice (what is collected and how it is used) but also  choice.  “We want to apply the same high standard that we’ve promoted on the web, but address the challenges of space and short notice and small screens.”

There is a challenge on mobile privacy to balance the Federal approach with those of the States,” Jerry says.  Some of the proposed and passed State regulations have requirements that that require longer form notice, for example.

Do Not Track Is Still in Play

Many recall that the very successful Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) was launched by DMA and other marketing associations as an icon-based solution to give consumers notice and choice online.  “We committed more than a year ago at the White House to make that choice visible and available to consumers, and we are now looking to expand it further to include a browser-based solution,” Rachel says.  With the Worldwide Web Coalition (W3C), we are also working on a technical standard for allowing this choice.

Protecting Children

The California Children’s Online Protection Privacy Act was updated late last year, Rachel noted.  Since then, DMA has offered training and webinars to help our  members apply these regulations to business operations.

Children’s privacy laws often deviate in significant ways with the Federal law, Ron says.  Regulations may  require that marketers maintain a separate children database, for example, and maintain distinct information on how data is collected and protected.    Having states require different types or amounts of data  — all with unique reporting requirements – would require a patchwork of compliance and place burden on business, Jerry says.

Postal Reform from Here to Saturday

You’ve all heard about the USPS attempt to shut down Saturday delivery, Jerry says.  “It’s really a question now of whether the USPS can make this decision without Congressional authority,” he says.  DMA is pushing for postal reform and urging Congress to get a reform bill through that allows the USPS to operate in a viable manner for the long term. “We can’t have them  continue to lose this much money every year,” Jerry says.   This could include a new private-public business model, shrinking the current services scope, and expanding into new business – all of which have been done successfully by postal services in other countries.

Your Role:  Hope is Not a Strategy

It’s clear that every DMA member and data-driven marketer must be aware and up to speed on these issues – no longer can marketers hope that DMA or someone else somewhere in the organization is representing your views.  It’s time for every data driven marketer to be active in protecting our industry from needless or harmful regulation.


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