DMA begins enforcement of industry self-regulation initiative

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The Direct Marketing Association said January 31 that it will begin to enforce its online data collection self-regulatory program immediately. The announcement comes as various private companies are launching online consumer privacy initiatives.

The DMA is requiring members to place the “Advertising Option Icon” on digital ads. The logo links to pages that educate consumers about data collection and let them opt out of data tracking.

The group said it will privately investigate consumer complaints about noncompliance by DMA members and contact companies that it finds are in violation. In cases where brands continue to violate the self-regulation principles, the DMA will revoke the company's membership and make the results of its investigation public. The organization may also censure or suspend a noncompliant brand or refer the case to the Federal Trade Commission.

“If [investigating] a member, the ultimate sanction is that you are thrown out of the association. If a non-member is persistently noncompliant, we will refer them to the FTC,” said Linda Woolley, EVP of government affairs at the DMA. “But I want to be clear, the goal is not to rat people out. The goal is to make companies comply.”

The organization launched the self-regulation initiative last October, calling for brands to include the “Advertising Option Icon” on its online ads.

Asked if the DMA hopes the initiative will ward off possible privacy regulation from the federal government, Woolley said, “We hope so.”

“When we hear words like ‘Do Not Track,' we think that is what this is,” she said. “What [the FTC] is calling for is an easy, transparent way for consumers to exercise their ability to opt out of data collection, and we really think that's what we've done.”

Job website Monster.com added a setting on its Career Ad Network last week that allows consumers to control behavioral ad targeting on the site. Mozilla and Google also said last week that they will provide options in their respective Firefox and Chrome Web browsers to block the tracking of consumers' online behavior.

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