DMA Announces Safe Harbor Program

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WASHINGTON -- The Direct Marketing Association will debut a Safe Harbor Verification and Enforcement Program.

The program will be free to members and will "give online and offline direct marketers the opportunity to learn about the safe harbor rules and how to comply with them," Charles Prescott, the DMA's vice president for international business and government affairs, said at the DMA/IA 2001 Government Affairs Conference here yesterday.

"Safe harbor" provisions were introduced in 1998 after the European Union instituted a data protection directive that prohibited data transfer from Europe to countries without adequate data protection laws. The provisions were designed to allow the continued free flow of data from Europe to the United States.

In addition, Prescott said, the program will have a dispute-resolution mechanism, allowing customers from other countries to contact the DMA if they are concerned about a particular company's data collection and transfer procedures. The DMA will have an independent, third-party panel that will examine the company's practices and tell the customer whether there is any violation. The panel also will advise a company to change its practices if violations are found. Prescott said all decisions would be made public.

The safe harbor provisions are voluntary, and so far only 39 companies have signed on to them, though many are larger firms, including Dun and Bradstreet and Hewlett-Packard.

No date has been set for the launch of the program.


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