Reset thinking for a new era online

Four industry veterans weigh in on growing concerns about the public’s right to privacy online

Vicki Updike
President, Miles Kimball Company

At Miles Kimball Company, we understand that our customers are very sensitive to issues of privacy, and we do all we can to be transparent in our policies and procedures. We fully agree to give consumers control over their personal information.

We believe that self-regulation is effective, efficient and appropriate. On all of our company websites, the privacy policy link is visible on the homepage, as well as when customers opt-in for e-mail updates and special offers.

This policy clearly outlines what information is collected; how it’s collected; how customers can access this collected information; and what information we share with others.

Our brand identifies who we are online with easy to find contact information. We understand that customers are leery of doing business with companies that do not clearly identify themselves. Our privacy policy alsoe xplains how we use cookies, web bugs or  beacons and how a customer can opt out.

Jerry Cerasale
SVP of government affairs, Direct Marketing Association

To communicate with anyone for personal or business reasons you need information — at a minimum, contact data. Marketers communicating with customers want their message to be relevant to the recipient.

Relevant communications, whether using traditional, electronic or mobile channels, are the bedrock for direct marketing that provides $1.168 trillion annually to the US economy and supports 9.88 million American jobs.

Without data about the interests of individuals, this direct marketing community would be much smaller and financially weaker than it is today.

Marketers must ensure that the consumer understands how his data is being used and realizes he has a choice on its use. Marketers must use this data only for marketing purposes; the Direct Marketing Association’s self-regulatory program requires this. However, the government must not impose privacy regulations that would stifle innovation.

Rob Stanton
VP of business development, Stanton Direct Marketing

Customer data is fragmented between many entities and falls short of painting full pictures of us as individuals. Most consumer information is used, en masse, for predictive modeling, message targeting or functional improvements. Furthermore, this data is collected and parsed algorithmically, with little human interaction.

That said, there are two areas where the use of customer data needs regulation: the abuse of information for purposes of spamming and protection from financial harm. These are quality of life issues that marketers respect.

Every conspiracy theory about the possible use of personal information just doesn’t register with me. My life doesn’t seem interesting enough for close inspection. Instead, I look at the benefits: If collected, information makes for a better user experience or exposes me to products and events I want to know about.

That’s great — as long as I have the ability to say “No, thanks” and opt-out.

Jeff Chester
Founder and executive director, Center for Digital Democracy

Much of our online experience, from websites to search engines to social networks, is designed to better ensure data collection from consumers.

Increasingly, we are electronically “shadowed” online, our actions and behaviors observed and analyzed so we can be “microtargeted.”

Companies use powerful techniques, including behavioral targeting, neuro-marketing and social media tracking, to sell and promote in the digital era. Of particular concern is how interactive marketing collects data about our health and financial concerns, as well as from children and teens. New threats are arising from mobile marketing, which combines behavioral tracking with our real location.

The role online marketing plays in shaping new media will help determine what kind of society we create. Congress and the Federal.

Trade Commission need to protect consumers by enacting policies promoting fair marketing principles for the online era.

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