Argentina Privacy Law Shakes Industry

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A European-inspired privacy law, which includes a provision limiting the use of databases by companies doing business in Argentina, is currently pending in Argentina's Senate and Chamber of Deputies, and may be passed into law by the end of the year.

While the Argentine provision is roughly based on an Italian privacy law and on the European Union's Directive on Data Protection -- which calls for all 15 member nations to adopt common data-privacy protection laws -- it requires the written consent of an individual or a corporate entity to have their personal information kept in a database, according to Charles Prescott, DMA vice president of international business development and government affairs.

"The Argentine provision is many times more restrictive and severe," Prescott said. "In Europe, it's implied consent. For everything except sensitive information, as long as people are given notice and are told what will be done with the information and they agree to give you the information, then that is sufficient."

The Direct Marketing Association is concerned the bill will be taken as a precedent elsewhere in Latin America. Late last month DMA president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen sent a letter to 30 CEOs of companies doing direct marketing business in Argentina -- including database management companies, telephone companies, hotel chains and airlines -- and warned them that if the bill is passed, it could cripple the development of databases and both traditional and online marketing efforts.

Wientzen's letter said it would work with the Argentine DMA to create a global awareness campaign and urged recipients to get involved with the association.

"There is still time to make a difference," Prescott said. "By getting involved now, we can work with and help the Argentine government develop a privacy law that balances the legitimate privacy expectations of consumers and the needs of business for access to nonsensitive information, to grow their business and the Argentine economy."

Other provisions include: prohibiting companies from archiving any information in their databases other than customer names, addresses and phone numbers; forbidding the capture of market research information about consumer interests; establishing government regulations over database uses; and prohibiting the transmission of data to any country that does not have the same protection provided in the Argentine bill without exception.

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