Privacy Legislation UPDATES
By Donna Loyle
In the current two-year legislative season, about 1,500 privacy-related bills at both the state and federal levels have been introduced, according to The Direct Marketing Association (DMA). Following are three examples that affect direct marketers:
Online Privacy Bill Proposed
The Online Personal Privacy Act of 2002, introduced by Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (D-SC) in April, would mandate that companies get consumers' opt-in permission to use sensitive data, such as financial records, Social Security numbers and health information. The bill also requires companies to provide opt-out options for non-sensitive data such as transactional information from Internet purchases.
The bill passed the Senate Commerce Committee in May by a vote of 15-8, and at press time was moving toward a vote by the full Senate. In a prepared statement, The DMA expressed its opposition: "This legislation fails to take into account that industry self-regulation of data privacy protocols have reached more than 90 percent of all Internet traffic, which renders the proposed bill's aims premature."
Anti-spam Bill Proposed
The Senate Commerce Committee also unanimously passed in May a bill that would allow the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to impose fines on companies that violate existing spam laws. The proposed bill, which was headed to a full Senate vote at press time, would enable the FTC to charge fines of up to $1.5 million, according to reports. The so-called "Can Spam Act," if passed, also would require that all unsolicited e-mails contain valid and working return addresses that recipients can use to opt-out of future e-mails from the senders.
Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT), one of the bill's sponsors, told reporters the bill empowers consumers with "the choice to close their doors to hyper-marketing once and for all." The Burns bill would exempt e-mail marketers who can show they have pre-existing relationships with recipients. This includes any transaction initiated by the consumer within the past three years.