Who's Responsible?

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Whose a responsible marketer?

Is it financial institutions that sell their customer information to outside marketing companies? Or is it Bank of America that says it'll no longer work with some telemarketing firms to sell their products and services?

Is it sweepstakes marketers who use really small type to tell consumers that the $2 million check they're holding isn't real? Or is it Publishers Clearing House, which says it will publish the numerical odds of winning in the rules and include "No purchase necessary" messages on its entry forms and outer envelopes.

Is it IBM and Microsoft, which are stopping advertising on Web sites that don't meet certain privacy guidelines? Or is Disney, which is going another step by saying its Go Network portal will drop any advertisers that fail to post clear policies on the use of personal information.

Times have changed. We're not in 1962, when the Reader's Digest Association started the first magazine sweepstakes mailing. How we went about our business 10 years ago isn't the same as how we did it five or even two years ago. Today's consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their personal information. Privacy advocates have cropped up who can make a great deal of noise with our lawmakers.

Many marketers, however, are proving every day that they can act responsibly, but the industry keeps getting hit with stories about elderly people flying to Florida to claim their million-dollar prizes or a bank that is accused of using its consumer data improperly. Self-regulation can work if everyone gives it a chance. Only 17 companies didn't meet the July 1 deadline to sign onto the Direct Marketing Association's Privacy Promise. Two weeks ago, the Federal Trade Commission told Congress there's no need for online privacy legislation at the moment, thanks to the DMA and the IBMs, Microsofts and Disneys out there. We just have to continue to put our house in order.

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