Update: FTC Workshop Examines Data Profiling

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Despite differences over the collection and use of consumer data, marketers and privacy advocates at this week's Federal Trade Commission Information Marketplace Workshop agreed that it was a good first step in educating the FTC about consumer data profiling.

"I was pleasantly surprised. I felt that the FTC staff worked very hard to make this a fair and open exchange and that they really wanted the public to gain an understanding of the issues at hand," said Lynn Wunderman, president/CEO of I-Behavior Inc., Harrison, NY.

Wunderman participated in an overview session as well as a session that addressed the purposes for merging and exchanging consumer data.

Some of the topics covered at the event were how to define consumer data, how and why data is collected, how data collection affects consumers, and what the future holds.

Half of the day was spent just covering things like what a co-op database is and what data is available, said privacy advocate, Jason Catlett.

"It really was a fact-packed tutorial on database marketing 101," said Catlett, president of Junkbusters Corp., Green Brook, NJ.

He spoke on a panel regarding the effects of data merger and exchange upon consumers and businesses.

The workshop did not address issues of policy, which at least one direct marketing professional expects will be next on the FTC's agenda.

"The FTC will probably sit back and think this over and perhaps hold a policy workshop next," according to Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president of government affairs at The Direct Marketing Association, New York.

He added that since FTC chairman Robert Pitofsky's term will end this year, there could be a shift in focus when a new chair takes over.

Even so, Cerasale said discussion about profiling will not go away.

Wunderman agreed and stressed the importance of marketers being up-front about their practices.

"I don't know what will come out of it but I think we got a fair shot at stating what we do and why we do it to a fairly receptive audience," she said.

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