The War Over Data
When it comes to prospecting with compiled lists, it's imperative that the data used to create them are accurate. "All data on a file is subject to scrutiny to ensure the overall integrity of the information," write ALC of New York LLC's Andy Ostroy and Margaret Iadeluca in their article "Sleuthing Compiled Lists." This comment could just as easily pertain to the scandal surrounding data broker ChoicePoint's sale of sensitive personal information to criminals who posed as legitimate business owners.
One of the sticking points for privacy advocates and some congressmen investigating the need for tighter data protection is that not only do consumers not get a say in whether their personal data should be rented, but that they are not able to review data collected about them and correct any inaccuracies. I don't know how you feel, but this argument holds water with me. How can we, as direct marketers, say we need access to a variety of personal data so we can better target our offers and develop compelling creative, but not be concerned this very data might be riddled with errors? If the ability to pinpoint our efforts is essential to our business success, as we've responded time and again to our critics, then the accuracy of the data on which we are dependent is our first priority, too.
This certainly is not a simple issue. With the corporate, government and law enforcement worlds using data brokers' products for various activities, all data cannot be lumped together and regulated as one homogenous group. But it's obvious that it's time to work with consumers, the Direct Marketing Association and lawmakers to develop data collection, maintenance and sharing boundaries that allow us all to sleep at night.
For more commentary on data security and privacy, see "Congress Likely to Push for Data Governance" from Target Marketing's new Eye on Privacy columnist, Alan Chapell. And check out "List Roundtable," which features advice from list experts Chicca D'Agostino, Harriet Heyman and David Schwartz on how to treat consumers with respect to their privacy while keeping the flow of data open.