While meeting with a key Republican Congressman recently, I received an eye-opening picture of how our elected officials view data privacy. It’s not one that will be encouraging to marketers.

I asked him what the conversation was around Capitol Hill about data privacy given the recent revelations about PRISM and the NSA. Were they lumping concerns about marketing data in with the issues of national security, or did politicos discern the difference between the two?

His answer was pretty unsettling.  He and many of his colleagues view marketing data collection with the same concern they have about government surveillance, which they characterize as “intrusion into personal lives.” In other words, it’s generally all the same to them, an attitude that could surely translate into law someday if we don’t do some serious education, now.

Data privacy will be a key issue in the next round of federal elections because people want control over their own data, whether it’s marketing data that they share with marketers or personal information collected without their consent by government agencies.

This Congressman also told me that both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are aligning themselves on this issue. I’m all for bipartisanship, but if privacy is the only issue they can agree on, then it tells me that we marketers have our work cut out for us.

You can be assured that DMA will be working on your behalf to help legislators understand the issues. But as marketers, you can do your part by being as transparent as possible in your data collection.

Tell your customers exactly what you collect, why you need it and how you will use.  Use a plain-language privacy policy. Post it prominently, and train your customer-facing employees on it.   Review the DMA Guidelines and ensure your compliance.  Most importantly, follow through on your policies, and be a good guardian of data in every department of your company.

We all have a role to play in the continued self-regulation of our industry.

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