LAS VEGAS–The database marketing industry must work even harder at implementing fair privacy policies, H. Robert Wientzen, president/CEO of the Direct Marketing Association, yesterday addressed attendees here at the NCDM conference. While databases are major corporate assets, he said they are a special breed because they contain proprietary and confidential information that raises privacy and data security concerns and issues of trust between companies and their customers.
As a result, the database industry “is at the bull's-eye of a very heated public debate.”
Wientzen said that the media has seized onto the consumer privacy and data security issues, and “it is creating some big political challenges for us … And as we move toward the November elections, I think we are going to expect to see this heat up even more,” he said. “In fact, both presidential candidates have now jumped on the privacy bandwagon, and you can expect to hear a great deal more about this subject as the debate goes on and then eventually after the election.”
Wientzen said the DMA is attacking the complex issue of privacy on all fronts. Among other things, he said the DMA implemented its Privacy Promise to Consumers a year ago. In addition, he said the DMA is one of the few associations to join the Privacy Leadership Initiative, a broad-based industry coalition that is working to address consumers' concerns about privacy-related issues. And, he said, there would be more ambitious plans to come from the association in the next few months.
But, he said, “the DMA cannot do this alone. Frankly, single-handedly it's not going to work … Rather, it takes the commitment and action of literally every organization in every industry segment that either collects, uses or shares information about consumers or in fact supplies companies that do any of those functions.”
Wientzen said that the industry “must develop and implement fair information practices and policies that have guts and muscle … If you are not playing by those rules, you need to change what you are doing.”
“If we don't all work together on this one,” he said, “government will in fact step in and do it for us, and they will do it badly, I can guarantee that.”