Does 'Can Spam' Travel?
When it comes to electronic communication, the differences in implementation by country are marked. In the United Kingdom and France, for example, legislation is targeted at consumers, not people within incorporated companies. This means e-mail marketing to individuals within companies is permissible if they have given a 'soft opt-in', which allows for the marketing of similar goods and services to those they have already expressed an interest in, or if they have received full notification of all the purposes intended by e-mail marketing at the point of data collection and given clear and unambiguous opt-out mechanisms.
Each member state also has the opportunity to 'gold plate' legislation, exemplified by the UK last year when it passed legislation on electronic communications and tagged on to the Bill the creation of a business-to-business do-not-call list.
The U.S. government, by contrast, takes a minimalist approach to business, preferring that it self-regulates and protects key interests through best practice. Where this isn't possible, a strong sector approach to law-making means that laws are rather specific, relate to clearly defined issues--such as advertising via e-mail--and is full of required practical steps to be taken to conform to the law.
The main piece of European legislation on privacy, The Data Protection Directive 1998, comprises eight principles covering the holding and use of personal data. Note the word 'principles', not 'steps'. These eight principles underpin all other legislation in this area, including the recent Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations that govern, inter alia, e-mail marketing. The eight principles require that:
• Personal data be obtained fairly and lawfully;
• Data be held only for specific and lawful purposes and not processed in any matter incompatible with those purposes;
• Requests for personal data be relevant, adequate and not excessive for those purposes;
• Data collected must be accurate and where necessary kept up to date;