Editor's Note: How's Your Data Doing?
In November, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released its first research on identity theft since 2003. It reported that 8.3 million adult Americans, or 3.7 percent of the population, were victims of this crime in 2005. Four years ago, the agency reported that 10 million Americans, or 4.6 percent, fell prey in 2001. At first blush, the numbers represent a drop in identity thefts in the U.S., but the FTC says the difference is not statistically significant. It also notes that usually this crime was perpetrated by people the victims knew personally. Still, 5 percent (1.5 million) said the theft was the result of data being taken from a company that held their personal information, and 7 percent (2.1 million) reported their data being stolen during a financial transaction that occurred online, in person or via the mail.
That’s not all: Speculation surrounds the FTC’s tallies, with some sources suggesting they are too low. According to a study by research firm Gartner, as reported in a recent USA Today news story, cybercrime likely fueled an increase in identify theft to the tune of 15 million Americans victimized between July 2005 and August 2006. And still others think Gartner’s count is conservative.
I’m pondering this research as I attend the National Center for Database Marketing (NCDM) trade show in Las Vegas, where session after session is devoted to analyzing data to market profitably. Since the days when firms kept their customers’ names on index cards in shoeboxes, data has been important to successful direct marketing—and the show reflected that companies more recently have augmented their data collection and usage practices to make better sense of the results in a multichannel world. It’s the only way to interact more efficiently and profitably with customers and prospects.
Such data-intensive activities require marketers to also invest in the management, application and security of the information they gather. Data often lives long after being gathered, so the privacy and database marketing experts I talked to at NCDM advised marketers to be diligent and comprehensive when crafting their data strategies. They emphasized that such planning should become an ongoing conversation within a company to ensure that, as the business evolves, the approach to data management keeps pace.