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*Questions Raised as DMA Loses Members Over Privacy Promise

Although the Direct Marketing Association announced the expulsion of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business and Sportsman’s Market Inc., Batavia, OH, for “failure to certify compliance” with its Privacy Promise, some are questioning why the organization is holding certain companies publicly accountable on privacy policy yet appearing to coddle others with confidentiality and extended deadlines. The DMA’s released statement confirms that an undetermined number of members have yet to comply: “There is also a limited number of other companies that have made a commitment to compliance and are in the final states of implementing the Promise. These ‘open cases’ will be resolved early next year.”

The DMA said Portland Newspapers resigned its membership earlier this year “in part because it felt it could not certify compliance with the Privacy Promise.” But why the DMA chose to make what appears to be an example of Columbia University is unclear.

According to a Columbia University spokeswoman, the DMA’s statement was completely false. She said the university had resigned from the DMA, noting that the DMA had confirmed receipt of the resignation letter on Nov. 19. The DMA’s statement was released at closing on Nov. 22.

At Privacy and American Business, Alan Westin, an industry report and information service spokesman who formerly taught at Columbia, said he didn’t believe Columbia University, being an educational institution “should excuse itself from living up to the ethical and publicly favored privacy policies that the DMA has adopted as a condition for remaining a member.”

Sources note, however, some companies do want to comply but are bottlenecked by Y2K issues and legal matters associated with banking reform. The DMA says it is merely trying to work with these companies that have expressed a sincere willingness to adopt the policy.

DMA president H. Robert Wientzen said “[we] feel it is important for our industry to protect the privacy of individuals’ information, and this type of effective self-regulation is preferable to government involvement. [Certain] members are being expelled because of their failure to certify compliance with the Privacy Promise.”

At Sportman’s Market Inc., a spokesman said the DMA has known for months that it had no intention of signing onto with the Privacy Promise. According to Bill Anderson “We simply didn’t want to sign the Privacy Promise. We are a privately run corporation. It’s our business. And we feel that our reputation speaks for itself.”

The DMA has steadfastly refused to divulge exactly how many of its members remain noncompliant of the Privacy Promise, whose deadline for adoption was July 1.

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