Eye on Privacy: Looking Back at 2012 to Survive 2013

If you tried to follow privacy issues affecting direct marketing in 2012, you were looking everywhere. While there was no single major impact from legislation, there was agreement among the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the White House and the Department of Commerce on the direction self-regulatory codes or legislation should take.

Privacy activity demanded our attention locally, nationally and globally. New controls came not just from new regulations, but changes and clarifications to existing regulations. Direct marketers were the focus of investigations from bipartisan congressional caucuses, the FTC and major media outlets.

Considering the rapid pace of change in technology and how quickly marketers are being asked to adapt to those changes, this diverse landscape of privacy controls and influencers is probably the new normal. It will require marketers to be more vigilant than ever to our practices and how we are perceived as an industry.

Privacy got off to a quick start in 2012 when, in February, the White House released its proposed “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.” The FTC followed with its final commission report on “Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change.” While neither was introduced as legislation, there is significant common ground and they provide a framework for legislators or industry groups to build upon.

In the spring, focus shifted to the European Union where the cookie law went into effect, though businesses are still trying to figure out how to comply. By the end of the year, there was a flurry of activity that included guidance on de-identification of PHI under HIPAA, changes to the Video Privacy Protection Act, enforcement of the Online Privacy Protection Act in California and dramatic expansions to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

What can the activity in 2012 tell marketers about what to expect in 2013? I don’t have a crystal ball, but here are some things that I’m watching.

Gwenn Freeman is a privacy strategist for KBM Group, a marketing solutions provider based in Richardson, Texas.
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