Julie Brill

Thorin McGee is editor-in-chief and content director of Target Marketing and oversees editorial direction and product development for the magazine, website and other channels.

"What most of you don't know, or are just beginning to realize, is that a much greater and more immediate threat to your privacy [than NSA data collection] is coming from thousands of companies you never heard of in the name of commerce." That's how "60 Minutes" began a supposedly unbiased report on the practices of marketing "data brokers" that aired on Sunday, March 9. The piece featured an interview with Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill, who claimed marketers keep personally identifiable "dossiers" on all individual citizens

Privacy advocates and trade groups are clashing over how to build consumer protections into the fast-growing data broker industry as they await the results of two long-running investigations that could shape Washington’s approach to the sector. Both the Federal Trade Commission and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee launched studies of data brokers last year, seeking information about how the firms operate and do business. The reviews, which are ongoing, have targeted companies including Acxiom, Experian and Datalogix, which collect information about people from sources online and offline and sell it to other businesses

When American federal lawmakers talk about going after so-called data brokers, email marketers should feel just as threatened as any traditional data compiler, according to a top legal executive with the Direct Marketing Association. The reason: The definition of “data broker” in Washington is far different from what most direct marketing professionals think of when they hear the term. “The threats to email marketers are the same and as important as those that are facing the entire data-driven marketing industry,” said Rachel Thomas, vice president, government affairs for the DMA

The multibillion-dollar data brokerage industry, a growing force in online marketing, is drawing intensified government scrutiny. On Wednesday, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, opened an extensive investigation of nine leading information brokers. Because Americans now conduct much of their daily business online, the senator said he was concerned that “an unprecedented amount” of personal, medical and financial information about people could be collected, mined and sold, to the potential detriment of consumers. “An ever-increasing percentage of their lives will be available for download, and the digital footprint they will inevitably leave behind will become more specific

Google Inc. has agreed to pay a record $22.5 million civil penalty to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it misrepresented to users of Apple Inc.’s Safari Internet browser that it would not place tracking “cookies” or serve targeted ads to those users, violating an earlier privacy settlement between the company and the FTC. The settlement is part of the FTC’s ongoing efforts make sure companies live up to the privacy promises they make to consumers and is the largest penalty the agency has ever obtained for a violation of a Commission order.

Speaking to an audience of leading advertising, marketing and legal professionals gathered in Chicago for the Promotion Marketing Association's annual Marketing Law Conference, FTC Commissioner Julie Brill told her audience that severe harms can result from the vast collection of personal data by advertisers in the age of new media. 

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