Congress Likely to Push for Data Governance
By Alan Chapell
"Data, data, who's got the data," a for-mer boss used to say with regularity. There's no doubt that data is the lifeblood of the direct marketing industry. And with what seems like a never ending wave of data breaches and other assorted scandals, it may be time to reassess the way many of us are using data to run our businesses. There's a train a comin' my friends. And it's time to get on board as we move into a new era in direct marketing.
There's a good deal of bile being directed at the large data aggregators by some of our elected representatives. It will be interesting to see if their level of vigor is sustained over the upcoming months given the business ties our industry shares with some of them. As many of us know, it's fairly common for politicians to work with data companies to build and enhance voter and contributor lists. And there are plans in place to sell a good deal of consumer data to help build counter-terrorism databases. Given what happened with the do-not-call list, does anyone wonder whether Congress will seek to exempt itself from future privacy legislation?
Speaking of the future, our industry needs to recognize that additional privacy legislation is a certainty. Some of us may be tempted to take a hard line against that legislation, and that would be a mistake. Make the deal you can live with now, rather than the one that might break you a few years down the road.
At the very least, we'll see a national version of California's SB 1386, the law which requires companies to disclose data breaches. Moreover, we likely will see legislation that provides consumers with additional access to their personal information, provides them with some level of choice regarding who else has access to that information, and gives them tools to help correct information on these databases when it is found to be incorrect.
To comply with the impending legislation, direct marketers will need to renew their commitment to understanding the ways that data flows within their organizations. Has your company done a good job of vetting every acquisition marketing partner? Is the firm that's hosting your database marketing software maintaining adequate safeguards? What's the risk/reward ratio if your parent company chooses to merge the databases of all of its divisions? To have the information needed to make these critical decisions, marketers will need to completely understand their data flows.
I recently heard Direct Marketing Association President/CEO John Greco speak at a privacy conference during which he advocated that our industry provide consumers with more control over the way in which we market to them. I agree, and think smart companies will get better at determining how customers want to interact, and will devise a truly customized strategy that fits each customer's preferences. The companies that provide their customers with a wide array of options regarding permissions management will be in the best position to succeed in the next few years.
There's a train a comin'. Are you on board?
Alan Chapell is president of Chapell & Associates, a consulting firm that helps direct marketers strike a balance between smart marketing and legal compliance. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.