Broker Roundtable: Minimizing the Impact of Do-Not-Track Legislation

By May 23, 2011

Welcome to Broker Roundtable, where each week we ask list brokers to give their opinions on issues that matter to the marketing community. This week’s question: With do-not-track-type bills gaining steam in Congress, what can marketers do to minimize their impact?

Our panel includes Jim Hall of All That Marketing, Michael Peterman of Veradata, Lisa Pollack of Adrea Rubin Marketing Inc. and Shawn R. Salta of Directmail.com. Would you like to be considered to be a member of our roundtable? Contact Larry Riggs (larry.riggs@penton.com).

Jim Hall, vice president, All That Marketing:

Marketers have a great responsibility to protect their customers’ personal and financial information. Problems and legislation appear when we become lax in securing the data the consumers expect to be safe. We can minimize the impact by being open and concise with the consumers on exactly what data and tracking tools are being used to enhance their shopping experience, then showing them how to opt out if needed. The major browser vendors are already creating tools for opting-out of online data collection. We need to be doing the same thing.

Michael Peterman, CEO, VeraData:

Due to the abuse from a few, our industry is encountering restrictive legislation that will inevitably affect all of us. This is, and has been, a simple solution that too many in our industry have failed to support. Self regulation seems a foreign concept to many marketers. The best thing marketers can do is adhere to best practices and not push the limits of personal information which hasn’t been granted to you by the individual. If you’re doing this already, chances are, these bills will not mean as much to you, at least for now. The ultimate result of the legislation will adversely affect online marketers more than anyone else…which is partially a good thing for those of us in the direct mail business. If it goes the way it appears to be going, direct mail lists will (at least in the short term) continue to be the best way for marketers at large to target consumers based on their purchase behavior.

Lisa Pollack, senior account executive,| Adrea Rubin Marketing, Inc.:

Online marketers currently have privacy policies on their websites that state their intentions for the data they collect, including storing cookies on the consumer’s computer or sharing data with third parties. To be ahead of the curve, marketers could restate their privacy policies in a pop-up at the time the consumers submits their information. This would then prompt the consumer to agree to the privacy policy stated before moving forward with the transaction. This ensures that the consumer is actively giving permission for their data to be tracked. It is important to the consumers’ experience that they do not have to re-enter their data, and that they are remembered and addressed as returning customers.

Shawn R. Salta, vice president, Directmail.com

Be cautious and use common sense. Every day the media reports yet another database being hacked. With each data breach, the financial security of millions of consumers is put at risk yet again. It’s no wonder that privacy, data theft and security are at the forefront of every consumer’s mind. And, it’s no surprise these issues are on the radar of all branches of government, especially Congress. No one likes being tracked, so trying to use data obtained via surreptitious means will only backfire in the long run. While I appreciate the desire to capture more data—and what this additional data can reveal from a marketing perspective—this form of data collection is too intrusive. Unfortunately, the damage has been done. Government is now involved, and I do believe a bill will be passed. Like most other bills, it will offer a broad-brush solution. An overall impact on the marketing industry is certain. But it’s simply too early to tell how great the effect will be.

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