Privacy Under Scrutiny
What Direct Marketers Need to Know About the Burgeoning Issues of Customer Privacy and Data Security
By Donna Loyle
We're in the midst of a new cultural revolution. According to one observer, privacy will be to this generation what the civil rights and women's liberation movements were to previous generations.
While that may be somewhat of an overstatement, the message is still clear: Consumers may be growing tired of the advertising and media barrage, and are now saying: "Leave me alone!"
Compounding the matter are the rising numbers of truly horrendous tales of identify theft, cyber-stalking and other criminal activities—acts that have been sparked, in part, by the ease with which information is now disseminated. The result has been, in recent years, an increasing number of privacy-related regulations.
That said, every marketer should be aware of the causes and effects of the shift in consumers' attitudes. Even Sept. 11 and its aftermath haven't thoroughly quelled Americans' increasingly vocalized desire to have their privacy rights protected.
"There is no sign that privacy issues are abating any time soon," says Pat Faley, vice president of ethics and consumer affairs at The Direct Marketing Association and a recognized leader in the field of privacy and marketing. "In fact, they are only increasing."
Michael Erbschloe and John Vacca, authors of "Net Privacy: A Guide to Developing and Implementing an Ironclad Business Privacy Plan," say consumers' awareness of privacy issues has increased sharply as a result of the rise of the Internet.
Why? First, the Internet has prompted a huge increase in the number of people using computers. Second, several privacy-related incidents have resulted in considerable negative press coverage for companies that improperly invaded people's privacy. Third, many organizations have begun using the Internet for marketing, sales or information dissemination. Finally, the Internet's international nature presents new challenges to governments, technology developers and providers, enterprises, and consumers.