A Good Swift Kick

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There's something brewing in Washington if two government officials give separate speeches about privacy on two successive days.

Although Vice President Al Gore, who gave the commencement address at New York University on May 14, didn't say anything specific about the industry's self-regulation plans, senior policy adviser Ira C. Magaziner got right to the point: The Direct Marketing Association needs to redouble its privacy efforts. Don't wait until July 1, 1999, the DMA's deadline for member compliance.

Speaking at the DMA Government Affairs Conference in Washington on May 13, Magaziner said the Clinton administration would rather not get involved: "We believe that the digital age moves too quickly and self-regulation could be more effective, more flexible and less bureaucratic than government action."

But it's a race against time, Magaziner said. Is anyone listening? Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president of government affairs at the DMA, isn't: "We can't surprise our members right now and change the processes we have in place." With thinking like that, the government's going to have a big surprise for all of us ... like its own legislation. Gore called for a summit to be held within a month -- not a year -- to talk about privacy and self-regulation. DMA officials say they are aware of what Washington wants, specifically tighter control over information available about medical records and children. We'll see what happens

Industry watchers say the speeches are a signal -- yeah, like a big Batsignal flashing across the night sky.

"They're starting to feel in the White House that if they give the industry a kick in the pants that something more might happen," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

OK, everyone, consider ourselves kicked.

See You at the Shows

This next week will be a hectic one for everyone involved in direct marketing attending two of the year's biggest shows -- the 15th annual Catalog Conference in Boston and Direct Marketing Days New York.

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