CMA Issues Guide to CRM Privacy in Canada

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The Canadian Marketing Association issued a white paper this week offering guidance on conducting privacy-conscious CRM in response to national privacy rules that took effect in January.

The paper, "Incorporating Privacy in Marketing and Customer Relationship Management," offers 10 principles for respecting privacy in collecting and using consumer personal data. CMA president/CEO Jon Gustavson said he hoped the information would encourage compliance with privacy regulations and forestall the passage of more stringent rules.

Canada's Parliament passed the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act in 2000 and staggered its implementation. It began applying in 2001 to federally regulated industries, including banks, railways, airlines and broadcasters. On Jan. 1, the act took effect nationwide across all industries except in provinces that enacted similar legislation.

It effectively created a nationwide privacy standard that applies across all media channels and industries, Gustavson said.

Canadian lawmakers are scheduled to review the privacy regulations in 2006. In the interim, the CMA aims to encourage compliance.

"There are privacy horror stories out there," Gustavson said. "We could be faced with privacy regulation that is less flexible than it is now."

The CMA, which developed the paper jointly with the office of the Ontario information and privacy commissioner, unveiled the guide at its annual convention this week in Ottawa.

The need for the guide was evident in a spring 2003 study by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce that found most companies are unaware of privacy principles, Gustavson said. So when the privacy commissioner of Ontario, the province with nearly 40 percent of Canada's population, came to the CMA to suggest a joint privacy guide, Gustavson thought it was a "great idea."

"This is where marketers have to act responsibly," he said. "We can build consumer trust if we get it right."

Some of the more common privacy problems in Canada concern the use of data and consent. Consumers are worried that marketers sometimes use data for purposes not disclosed at the time the information was collected or don't obtain consent to use or share information when appropriate.

The guidelines suggest exercising a degree of privacy commensurate with the sensitivity of the data. For example, consent might be implied when sending a subscription renewal to an existing customer whereas use of financial or health information would require express, explicit consent from the consumer.

Though CRM is not the marketing industry buzzword it once was, more companies are incorporating CRM strategies into their daily business practices than ever before, Gustavson said.

"It's still fundamental to what marketers are trying to achieve," he said. "The concept that your next best customer is your immediate past customer is still valid."

A copy of the white paper is available in PDF format at the CMA Web site,, or click below:



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