*Magaziner Urges DMers to 'Redouble Privacy Efforts'
Addressing a crowd at the DMA Government Affairs Conference here May 13, Magaziner reminded the delegates that his organization created the legislative framework in July that calls for a nonregulatory approach to electronic commerce.
"Our view is that there needs to be private sector leadership, and that even where collective action is necessary, that collection should be private-sector led," he said. "We believe that the digital age moves too quickly and that self-regulation could be more effective, more flexible and less bureaucratic than government action."
In terms of allowing parents to protect their children against unwanted content, Magaziner said, "we think the answer is not for the government to censor that content --because even if that was the desire, it would not be possible anyway -- but rather to try to provide the tools to parents to screen out what they don't want in their homes. The crucial principal is to empower people to protect themselves and maintain the individual freedom of the Internet."
He also said that privacy is the most significant -- and most critically charged -- issue and that "if we don't address it properly, we could wind up with an emotional reaction, which will drive the Internet and electronic commerce down a regulatory path, as opposed to a self-regulatory path, which we think will be best for the economy."
Magaziner acknowledged that the Direct Marketing Association has taken significant steps toward self-regulation, but he has some very specific thoughts about what needs to be done.
"We think individual groups should develop codes of conduct, which the DMA is doing, based upon the widely-accepted OECD principles," he said.
The code of conduct also should have enforcement mechanisms ensuring that audits take place to see that measures are implemented, that there should be consumer redress mechanisms and, finally, the organization should have a seal on its Web site saying it is joining or has joined the code of conduct organization.
While Magaziner said he knows the DMA is working hard to move in these directions, "we really are in a race against time. There are 80 bills in Congress this year in privacy protection. The issue is going to heat up drastically in the coming months. We need to try to have [privacy guidelines] in place soon, so we can have something credible to point to that shows that we are making a difference."
While some mailers thought Magaziner was putting too much pressure on the industry, he said he is not being "critical of the DMA's initiatives, but I am describing a political reality that we are facing, and urging you to redouble your efforts."
However, the DMA has no plans to step up its self-regulatory privacy initiatives, which are required for DMA members by July 1999.
"In terms of [our mandatory membership privacy guidelines], people should follow them," said Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president of government affairs at the DMA. "We can't surprise our members right now and change the processes we have in place."