The Data Exchange: A Mutual Commitment

From time to time, many of us put impatience ahead of good sense. We run across the street against the traffic light to get to our destination as quickly as possible. But when we have children in our care, we find the patience to stop at the crosswalk and wait until the light turns green. Why? Because with added responsibility comes a greater awareness of safety–and we know we have something  precious to protect.

This holds true in many aspects of our lives. If we as a nation are to protect our precious digital lifestyles against criminal data breaches and privacy attacks, we need to live with a heightened sense of responsibility. Today businesses, consumers, and government agencies recognize the huge economic value of data. In fact, it’s an important economic driver and what makes it possible for us to lead data-driven lives.  

How precious is this data that we’re protecting? DMA’s recent Value of Data study found that the Data-Driven Marketing Economy (DDME) added $156 billion in revenue to the U.S. economy and fueled more than 675,000 jobs in 2012 alone. Importantly, the study found that the real value of data is in its exchange across the DDME. Seventy percent of the value of the DDME–$110 billion in revenue and 478,000 jobs–depends on the ability of firms to exchange data across the DDME. 

With this in mind, the DMA believes that consumers and marketers alike must take ownership and responsibility for their actions as they conduct transactions online and offline.

First, the DMA calls on all marketers who use data (and who doesn’t?) to review industry guidelines. These should be discussed openly and reviewed across departments to determine any gaps and, if any are found, ensure that they’re corrected in a timely manner.  This method ensures that marketers are always practicing responsible data-driven marketing. Why does this matter? Consumers trust brands that act responsibly. This is especially important today: With so much in the news about data, consumers are often confused about how their information is being handled. 

All responsible marketers can engender consumer trust and provide the greatest value by following the practices below:

  • Using marketing data responsibly for marketing purposes only
  • Representing products, services, and terms and conditions accurately, clearly, and honestly
  • Never using consumer data provided for marketing purposes to determine eligibility for credit, insurance, or employment (In fact, the use of consumer data for eligibility is already regulated by federal law).
  • Presenting offers clearly, honestly, and completely so that the consumer knows exactly what’s being offered
  • Informing consumers of security breaches when there’s a likelihood of harm
  • Providing consumers with access to add, modify, or eliminate direct marketing communications from organizations and obtain a company’s privacy policy
  • Avoiding the public display of consumers’ social security numbers, credit card numbers, checking account numbers, and debit account numbers on direct marketing promotions
  • Following these and other best-practices as outlined in DMA’s Guidelines for Ethical Business Practicesand by the FTC

However, it’s just as important for consumers to be fully aware of the content and data they share and to take proper precautions to safeguard them. Consumers have many choices and it’s essential that they exercise them.

Consumers can help keep their personal information secure, as well as maximize the value of their online transactions by:

To keep our valuable data exchange strong, viable, and secure— and to optimize our data-driven lifestyle — it takes mutual commitment on all sides of the data exchange. Marketers and consumers must take responsibility to adopt responsible data-driven marketing practices. If we do this, everyone wins— and the huge benefits that data brings to consumers, marketers, and to the economy will continue to grow. 

  Stephanie Miller is VP of member relations and chief listening officer at the Direct Marketing Association. She is a relentless customer advocate and a champion for marketers creating memorable online experiences.  A digital marketing expert, she helps responsible data-driven marketers connect with the people, resources, and ideas they need to optimize response and revenue.
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